WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal team have announced they will appeal after British magistrate Howard Riddle ruled on February 24 that Assange can be extradited to Sweden to face questioning on allegations of sexual assault.
Assange denies the allegations.
Assange’s British Attorney Mark Stephens told Democracy Now later that day that the defence team remains “very optimistic about our opportunities on appeal”.
Stephens explained that the appeal would focus on the fact that rape trials in Sweden are held in secret and this would violate Assange’s right to a fair and open trial.
“The judge made a very important finding in relation to both the fact of the secret trial in Sweden, which is an anathema to the open justice principle which we, in this country, and I think in most civilized countries of the world, hold very dear.”
Geoffrey Robertson QC told the court that his client was unlikely to receive a fair trial in Sweden due to the politicised nature of the case.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt “accused Mr Assange of claiming women’s rights are worthless”, Robertson said.
This “devastating vilification” of Assange was likely to prejudice the outcome of any future trial, Robertson said.
However, the judge dismissed this as grounds for denying the extradition.
Assange’s legal team also fear that Swedish authorities may in turn him extradite him to the United States in relation to WikiLeaks' publication of leaked US embassy cables.
A special grand jury, which is conducting its operations in secret, has already been convened in the US to investigate charges against Assange and WikiLeaks.