REPORTING FROM LONDON -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Wednesday that his legal team will weigh his options now that he has lost his appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he faces charges of sexual assault.
In an uncharacteristically brief statement on the steps of Britain's High Court, Assange tried to downplay the decision to uphold his extradition order, saying that the proceedings and conclusions were "merely technical" in nature.
"No doubt there'll be many attempts made to try and spin these proceedings as they occurred today, but they are merely technical," Assange said, adding that people should visit his website to know "what's really going on in this case."
The two High Court judges said their decision to reject Assange's appeal against extradition was based on points of law and procedure -- in other words, whether the arrest warrant was properly issued and executed -- and not on the strength or weakness of the evidence.
The arrest and extradition proceedings were "lawful" and "proportionate" for a case that centered on "serious sexual offenses," the judges said.
Assange, 40, looked on impassively in court when the ruling was handed down. His lawyers now have 14 days to decide whether to try to take the case to Britain's Supreme Court.
Assange 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.
-- Henry Chu
Photo: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange outside the London courthouse where he lost his appeal Wednesday against extradition to Sweden to face sex-crime charges. Credit: Leon Neal / Agence France-Presse