A London court has given Swedish authorities the green light to extradite Julian Assange.
Judge Howard Riddle of the London Magistrate's Court found that Swedish authorities had lodged the extradition request properly and that there was no evidence Assange would face torture or physical threats in Sweden.
In making his ruling, Judge Riddle recounted graphic details of the claims made by two women against Assange, whom Swedish authorities want to question over three allegations of sexual assault and one of rape.
"It's well known that the vast majority of these extradition warrants are rubber stamped by the courts and it is quite a difficult evidentiary standard and legal test to set them aside," James Catlin, a Melbourne barrister who has previously acted for Assange and continues to be retained by Wikileaks to pursue breaches of the organisation's trade mark, told Lawyers Weekly. "I have some difficulty understanding Judge Riddle's point about how a warrant for mere questioning meets the previously existing standard that you can only be extradited to face a charge.
"That was a strong point in Geoffrey Robertson QC's skeletal argument and is likely to be a point of appeal."
Assange's defence team, which includes Geoffrey Robertson QC, has indicated that it is likely to formally lodge an appeal to the British High Court to contest the extradition order within the next week.
Speaking on ABC Radio this morning, Jennifer Robinson, an Australian lawyer with the London firm Finers Stephens Innocent, said that in the case of an appeal the defence team of which she is a part would present evidence from Vinerian Oxford criminal law professor Andrew Ashworth, who believes that none of the acts alleged to have been committed by Assange would relate to a crime in the UK.
Assange's bail conditions were renewed, and he is free to reside in the Norfolk manor owned by Vaughan Smith, an English restaurateur and video journalist.
A handful of Assange's high-profile supporters, most notably the Australian journalist John Pilger, have expressed concerns about whether Assange's extradition to Sweden could be the first step in his eventual extradition to the USA.
While not commenting specifically on those claims, Catlin said it was still not clear whether a grand jury had been formed in the USA and if any decision about charging Assange under the Espionage Act had been reached.
"Julian was at arms length from the leak by US Army private Bradley Manning," Catlin said. "From all reports that is an insurmountable obstacle to charging him with being in a conspiracy with Manning."
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