WikiLeaks: Out of time and money
NO LONGER quite the cause célèbre he once was, Julian Assange was in court without his celebrity backers on November 2nd, when he failed in an appeal against his extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors want to question him on sex-assault charges. The WikiLeaks whistle-blowing site he founded is in trouble too: it has suspended most of its operations as it grapples with banks and payment-card companies that block its transactions.
Mr Assange’s lawyers had challenged a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), normally enforced automatically, on four main grounds. Two High Court judges firmly rejected them all in terms that leave little room for a further appeal. They did not accept that the Swedish prosecutor was the wrong judicial authority to order an extradition; their judgment also said it did not matter that Mr Assange has not yet been accused of an offence in Sweden. Nor did it accept that the events being investigated were too minor, or too poorly described, to be an offence in England too (this “dual criminality” test is a central feature of the EAW). It also rejected the argument that extradition was disproportionate to the potential crime involved.
Unless he gains leave to appeal, Mr Assange will leave for Sweden within 10 days. There he will have a chance to explain his condom-less encounters, in quick succession, with two sleepy Swedish female fans in August last year. These have dented his reputation and sparked the allegations: one of rape, two of sexual assault, and one of coercion. Mr Assange’s fans believe that the allegations are a smokescreen and that Sweden is acting as a tool of American influence; some even say he may end being extradited there.
Mr Assange has been living under strict bail conditions with a wealthy supporter since his arrest in December. He appeared at the tent-dwellers’ protest outside St Paul’s Cathedral last month, but has had diminishing success in drumming up wider support for his cause. A blunder in September, when the unedited versions of purloined American diplomatic cables were released thanks to a stray password, brought another flurry of publicity.