WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange's lawyers are fighting the British Supreme Court's decision to extradite him to Sweden for alleged sex crimes
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has appealed against the British Supreme Court's decision to back his extradition to Sweden for alleged sex crimes, a court spokesman told TheWrap.
Following a closely watched 18-month legal battle, the U.K's highest court rejected an appeal by Assange's lawyers to block a European arrest warrant for his extradition by a 5-2 majority two weeks ago.
But his lawyers argued that the judges' ruling was unfair because they reached a decision based on a legal point that had not been argued in court, preventing the defense from submitting a rebuttal.
Assange's legal team, headed by human rights attorney Dinah Rose, submitted an appeal Tuesday, exactly on the 14-day deadline granted by the court, a spokesman for the court confirmed to TheWrap.
"It was basically what was expected — the lawyer launched their papers to seek to reopen the appeal in the Assange case," the court spokesman said. The spokeswoman for Assange's legal team could not be reached for immediate comment.
Swedish prosecutors seek to question Assange over the alleged coercion, sexual assault and rape of two women with whom the computer programmer had sex during a trip to Sweden.
In Britain, arrest warrants generally require a judge's approval. However, Assange's warrant was issued by Sweden's public prosecutor, which his lawyers argue is unfair because it grants the same prosecutors seeking to convict the accused the power to issue warrants.
A British court ruled in February 2011 that Assange should be sent to Sweden to face his accusations, but the WikiLeaks chief has continually appealed the decision to higher courts while living under house arrest at a friend's mansion in rural England.
According to the court spokesman, the justices have three options for dealing with the appeal. First, they could dismiss it, forcing Assange to appeal to the European Union courts in Strasbourg, France. Second, they could reopen the case. Third, the justices could reconsider it and hold another hearing.
If Assange appeals to the transnational European court, he may temporarily block the British ruling to send him to Sweden while the European judges consider the case.
"If Mr. Assange seeks to appeal to Strasbourg, the European court of human rights, it may be that he would seek to get an injunction to the extradition to Sweden pending that court's decision," the spokesman told TheWrap.
Assange, a former computer hacker, became an international celebrity in 2010 after WikiLeaks published the largest leak of classified U.S. documents in history, including secret combat videos and a massive trove of diplomatic cables that candidly detailed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The silver-haired Australian, who brazenly criticized the U.S. government and news outlets he believed pandered to White House officials, quickly became a polarizing figure.
Supporters saw him as a self-styled Che Guevara for anti-censorship activists and anti-war protesters. To his detractors, he appeared to be a political agent eager to disrupt American foreign affairs and embarrass the United States by publishing sensitive, top-secret State Department documents.
Soon after the State Department leak, known as "Cablegate," Assange faced increasingly heated criticism, from American politicians calling for his covert assassination to the Obama administration exploring legal routes through which to prosecute him for the leaks.
Assange has been under house arrest for 553 days, according to WikiLeaks, during which time he began hosting a news commentary show on RT, the Kremlin-backed English-language television network.