LONDON — Britain’s Supreme Court on Wednesday backed the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Sweden where he is accused of sex crimes — the latest chapter in the saga of the self-styled Internet whistle-blower.
Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange over claims of rape and sexual assault made by two female former WikiLeaks volunteers, and he has been fighting a lengthy legal battle against extradition since his arrest in Britain in Dec. 2010.
Seven judges at Britain’s highest court rejected by a majority of 5-2 that Assange’s claim that a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) under which his extradition is sought was invalid. Two lower courts have already ruled he should be extradited.The former computer hacker gained international prominence in 2010 when WikiLeaks began releasing secret video footage and thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables about Iraq and Afghanistan, in the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history.
That made him a hero to anti-censorship campaigners but a menace to Washington and other governments. Assange also faced widespread criticism that he had 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.