Where does Julian Assange go from here?

by Carl Gardner on February 24, 2011

District Judge Riddle has just ordered Julian Assange’s extradition to Sweden, according to reporters’ tweets from court, and Sky News. I’ve not yet had sight of the ruling itself yet of course.

So where does he go from here? To be flippant, the practical answer is probably, back to Suffolk. The judge could remand him into custody pending extradition – but I doubt that, especially as there’s likely to be an appeal.

The appeal will be to the High Court under section 26 of the Extradition Act 2003, and Julian Assange’s team will need to given notice of appeal within 7 days. No doubt his team will begin working on their grounds as soon as they get out of court, and they’ll have the difficult immediate task of giving instant advice on his chances.

The appeal can be on a question of law, or of fact: in other words, Julian Assange can raise legal arguments that the judge got the law wrong, or he can simply say the judge made a factual mistake – about why he ended up not being interviewed further in Sweden for instance. So it can be a wide-ranging appeal.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nicola Weaver February 24, 2011 at 13:00

It’s a disgrace.

Does anyone REALLY believe that he can get a fair trial in Sweden after all that has gone on? Does anyone REALLY think that hostile comments by the Prime Minister and other politicians doesn’t influence judges and juries?

Anyone who believes that is in cloud cuckoo land.

It is clearly now a political process, and he will be subjected to a political trial if he is extradited.

FYI, all the Assange and Wikileaks videos have been collected here:
http://wikileaks.videohq.tv

2 James Medhurst February 24, 2011 at 13:12

Personally, I ignore most things that David Cameron says and I do not suppose that the situation is particularly different in Sweden.

More seriously, it is not uncommon for trials to collapse in the UK because, for example, a newspaper has printed inappropriate things about the case. However, we do not conclude that the prosecution should be halted as a result. The usual outcome is that a new jury is found whose members are not aware of the comments in question.

3 Carl Gardner February 24, 2011 at 14:55

I don’t see any reason to assume any trial in Sweden would be unfair, Nicola. Perhaps that just proves I’m living in cloud-cuckoo land. Of course I can’t know it would be fair. But that’s a different point. No one can know that about any future trial, anywhere.

As for it being a political trial: interestingly it seems the defence didn’t even argue Assange was being pursued because of his political opinions.

4 txwikinger February 24, 2011 at 14:56

The proceedings seemed to be some kind of let-off on the Assange side. The lawyers went in with blazing guns and it seemed like when there were in the hearing, their arms jammed.

In particular, it was very embarrassing that Assange’s Swedish lawyer had to retract statements about the availability of Assang that he had made previously.

To avoid a somewhat “automatic” process like the European warrant, things must go nearly perfect for the side fighting it.

However, I wonder if the judge has made a mistake with his reasoning about the lack of the public in a trial in Sweden. It is probably necessary to examine the exact text of the ruling, in order to come to a conclusion, but it seems that Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights requires that criminal trials must be public in order to guarantee the fairness for the accused (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_6_of_the_European_Convention_on_Human_Rights).

Maybe Carl has some case law on this issue?

In any case, the reported argument by the judge, that the lack of public hearings is usual in Sweden seems to be a little weak. In particular since due to the Human Rights Act 1998, a judge must decide in a way that complies with the act itself and the European Convention of Human Rights whenever English law is ambiguous.

Maybe that is one of the points that the defense can take to have at least a waiver to appeal. It might also open the door to go to the European Human Rights Court in Strassbourg, after exhausting all appeals in England. It would be interesting to know if there have been previous or pending challenges to Sweden’s practice in the Human Rights Court, since it would not only be an issue in this case, but in any case in Sweden denying public hearings to a defendant.

5 Carl Gardner February 24, 2011 at 15:03

You don’t need case law, Txwikinger: it’s clear from the text of article 6.1 that it permits trials in camera in certain circumstances, notably in the interests of privacy:

http://www.hri.org/docs/ECHR50.html#C.Art6

There’s a typo in there – it should read “… but the press and public may be excluded … “

6 txwikinger February 24, 2011 at 15:13

Thanks Carl, I overlooked that, even it could be argued with all the information already published, there is no argument for privacy left.

7 Carl McNab February 24, 2011 at 15:29

The ruling is available in PdF form at http://www.judiciary.gov.uk

8 txwikinger February 24, 2011 at 17:28
9 Ki February 24, 2011 at 18:59

Carl, they did introduce the political influences this case would gave. Assange’s lawyers submitted statements made by high profile US political and media people such as Sarah Palin and their threats to his life or kidnapping him to the US to face trial for Treason (which is equally moronic as Assange is not an American citizen). They linked that point to Sweden’s cozy relationship with the US and the influence that would have on the almost eventual attempt at extradition to the US. Couple that with the PM in Sweden’s animosity towards Assange… it’s a no brainer.

Not only will the trial by done in secret but he will also be gaged which is what the prosecution want. The more people hear about this ridiculous the less credence the prosecution have to pursue. They have done a fine job smearing him in the public opinion of the swedish people.

He is only going there to be questioned and if they had enough evidence to actually CHARGE him… wouldn’t they have done so before filing the arrest warrant?

10 Garrulous Law February 25, 2011 at 00:42

“He is only going there to be questioned and if they had enough evidence to actually CHARGE him… wouldn’t they have done so before filing the arrest warrant?”

No. It’s covered in the annotated judgment here but in the Swedish system, unlike the UK, you can’t charge someone until they’ve been interviewed and had a chance to explain their side of the story.

11 Heather Kai March 1, 2011 at 09:00

Corrupt and weird, what a lot of fuss to go to over a reputed sexual mishap when we are far more free and easy about arresting those who support terrrorism. If Sweden does hand him over to the US they will lose all international credence as a modern democracy. I hope in the end they think it is worth it.

12 Katharina March 12, 2011 at 11:39

It would be interested to know whether a later appeal to Strasbourg is possible? I think you explained earlier why a UK court cannot bring the case to the Court in Luxembourg (at least not during the next few years).

13 txwikinger July 12, 2011 at 17:04

As reported at http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/12/julian-assange-extradition-live-coverage it seems that the new legal team for Julian Assange is far less flamboyant and by focus more on the real legal questions rather than distracting by wild speculations makes a better case at the Appeals Court than the last legal team in front of the District Judge.

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