- WikiLeaks founder can be extradited to Sweden, U.K. judge says
- Assange's lawyer vows to appeal ruling
Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden over sex crimes allegations, a U.K. judge said Thursday in a ruling that prompted the WikiLeaks founder to slam the extradition process.
Judge Howard Riddle said the allegations of rape and molestation involving two women in Sweden are extraditable offences.
Assange's lawyers, who were given seven days to challenge the ruling, said they would appeal to the High Court.
"We are still hopeful that the matter can be resolved in this country," said lawyer Mark Stephens. "We remain optimistic of our chances on appeal."
Speaking after Thursday's hearing, Assange criticized the extradition ruling as a "rubber-stamp" process.
"It comes as no surprise but is nevertheless wrong. It comes as the result of a European arrest warrant system amok," the 39-year-old Australian said.
"There was no consideration during this entire process as to the merits of the allegations made against me, no consideration or examination of even the complaints made in Sweden," he said.
CBC's Nahlah Ayed said the judge gave a "long outline" of the reasons he's allowing the extradition, and said there was no reason to believe Assange's human rights would not be protected in Sweden.
"He felt there were enough assurances that Assange would have a fair trial in Sweden, and that is part of the reason that he is allowing the extradition to go ahead," Ayed said.
After hearing three days of testimony this month, Riddle concluded "there is simply no reason to believe there has been a mistake" about the European arrest warrant issued by Swedish authorities.
The 39-year-old Australian was arrested in Britain on Dec. 7 on the warrant issued by Sweden, where two women allege they were sexually assaulted by the founder of the whistleblowing website. Assange has denied the allegations, and has been out on bail while fighting extradition.
His lawyers have questioned Sweden's judicial process and expressed concern their client risks being handed over to the U.S., which is investigating whether Assange's website should be held responsible for leaking classified information, including a recent cache of thousands of diplomatic cables.
A group of Assange supporters gathered outside the court before the hearing, hanging banners and signs saying "Free Julian Assange and Bradley Manning," the U.S. army private suspected of leaking the documents to WikiLeaks.