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WikiLeaks founder Assange loses legal challenge to extradition

By Janet Stobart, Los Angeles Times –

LONDON — Julian Assange, founder of a website that published classified U.S. documents, can be extradited to Sweden for questioning on allegations of rape and sexual assault, Britain’s Supreme Court confirmed Thursday.

A panel of seven judges had already given their decision two weeks ago but allowed further time to consider a legal technicality raised by the WikiLeaks founder’s defense team. His attorneys requested that the appeal proceedings be reopened on the grounds that a basic point of law relevant to the case had not been discussed in court.

On Thursday, the judges said “the court considers that this application is without merit and is dismissed.” They ruled that extradition proceedings could begin in 14 days.

In a final attempt in his long-running legal battle on British soil, the 40-year-old Assange can still seek to delay extradition proceedings by going to the European Court of Human Rights.

Assange was called in for questioning in August 2010 by a Swedish prosecutor after two women contended that he had sexually molested them in encounters during a Swedish lecture tour.

He traveled to Britain, where he has been under house arrest at the country mansion of a supporter since losing a challenge claiming the European arrest warrant issued by prosecutors seeking his extradition to Sweden was invalid.

WikiLeaks came to prominence in 2010 after the website published classified U.S. State Department diplomatic cables and film footage, causing an international uproar but gaining a strong following of anti-censorship supporters around the world.

Bradley Manning, a former U.S. Army analyst suspected of leaking the information to WikiLeaks, is in custody in the United States awaiting court-martial on 22 counts, including giving aid to the enemy. He could face life in prison.

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