LONDON, May 30: Britain’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be extradited to Sweden over alleged sex crimes, leaving the Australian with few legal options after an 18-month legal battle.

Judges at Britain’s highest court rejected by a majority of 5-2 Assange’s argument that a European arrest warrant for his extradition was invalid.

However, the court gave his lawyers two weeks to contest their ruling, and any extradition was put on hold until Assange decides whether to challenge the verdict.

Two lower courts had already ruled in favour of the extradition of Assange, a self-styled anti-secrecy campaigner seen as a menace by Washington and other governments.

Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange over allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two female former WikiLeaks volunteers. He has been fighting a legal battle against extradition since his arrest in Britain in Dec 2010.

The former computer hacker gained international prominence in 2010 when WikiLeaks began releasing secret video footage and thousands of US diplomatic cables about Iraq and Afghanistan, in the largest leak of classified documents in US history.

That made him a hero to anti-censorship campaigners. But Washington was furious about the release of classified documents.

Assange was not present at the court hearing but WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said he saw Washington’s hand in the ruling. “This is not the final outcome. What we have here is retribution from the US,” he said.

Assange has faced widespread criticism that he put lives at risk by blowing the cover of sources who spoke to diplomats and intelligence agents in countries where it was dangerous to do so.

WikiLeaks has since faded from the headlines due to a dearth of scoops and a blockade by credit card companies that has made donations to the site almost impossible.—Reuters


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