Wikileaks' Assange can be extradited to Sweden, say appeals court judges

Assange is wanted by Swedish prosecutors for questioning over incidents with two women

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lost an appeal in the U.K.'s High Court on Wednesday that sought to block his extradition to Sweden on potential charges of rape and molestation.

Assange is wanted by Swedish prosecutors for questioning about sexual encounters with two women in August 2010. Both women have told Swedish prosecutors the incidents were not consensual, although Assange's attorneys have argued the opposite.

The two-judge panel said that European Arrest Warrant issued for Assange was proportionate and valid, and the offenses alleged against him are criminal in both the U.K. and Sweden.

Assange can still appeal Wednesday's ruling to the U.K. Supreme Court.

He had appealed a decision in February by District Judge Howard Riddle, who rejected arguments that Assange would not get a fair trial in Sweden due to the country's custom of excluding press and the public from sexual assault trials. Riddle also said it is a "reasonable assumption" that Assange "was deliberately avoiding interrogation" before the period he left Sweden, when prosecutors were in negotiations with his attorney to question him.

The latest ruling marks another blow for WikiLeaks, which said last week it would suspend publishing confidential documents because most of its revenue had been cut off by an ongoing financial blockade.

Companies including Bank of America, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union stopped processing donations for WikiLeaks shortly after the site began releasing portions of 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables in November 2010.

Assange has not been charged by Swedish prosecutors, which his lawyers have argued is another reason to resist a European Arrest Warrant. During hearings in February, Assange sought to connect the case in Sweden with his work with WikiLeaks.

He has been free on bail since December 2010 and staying in Norfolk, England, with Vaughan Smith, the founder of the journalism organization the Frontline Club.

The secret documents are alleged to have been provided to WikiLeaks by Private First Class Bradley E. Manning. He has been charged by the U.S. Army and faces trial for allegedly mishandling and transferring classified information.

Assange has not been charged by the U.S. in relation to his WikiLeaks work, but he remains under investigation.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service

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