Britain's High Court Wednesday rejected Assange's appeal against the European arrest warrant that Swedish authorities filed against him last year. That means that the Australian could be extradited to Sweden by month's end, although he is likely to try to take his case to Britain’s Supreme Court.
Assange, 40, has been under virtual house arrest since last December, when a judge allowed him out on bail but ordered him to surrender his passport, wear an electronic tracking tag, abide by a curfew and report daily to police. He has been holed up in the 10-bedroom mansion of a supporter who lives on a 600-acre country estate northeast of London.
The allegations against him stem from separate encounters he had with two women in August 2010 in Stockholm, the Swedish capital. The women accuse Assange of refusing their requests that he use a condom during sex; one of the women also says that Assange began having intercourse with her while she was asleep.
Assange’s lawyers have argued that the charges against him are politically motivated and that extradition to Sweden is a pretext for shipping him on to the U.S. for prosecution over the controversial leak last year of hundreds of thousands of State Department documents.
Assange says the sex was consensual. His lawyers also contended that the allegations, even if true, would not necessarily constitute crimes under British law. Swedish laws on sexual assault are more sweeping than those here.
But British prosecutors, acting in court on behalf of their Swedish counterparts, said the allegations were sufficiently serious because they involved some physical force. One of the women accused Assange of using his body weight to pin her down while having sex with her.
Assange was arrested last December after voluntarily surrendering to London police, who were prepared to execute a European arrest warrant against him.
-- Henry Chu
Photo: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrives at the High Court in London on Wednesday. Assange is accused of sexual assault in Sweden. Credit: Andy Rain / EPA