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Top UK court upholds Assange extradition

Britain's Supreme Court has upheld a ruling against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, meaning his extradition to Sweden on sex crimes charges is likely to go ahead. The prominent whistleblower can still appeal in Europe.

In this Feb. 1, 2012 file photo, Julian Assange, the 40-year-old WikiLeaks founder, arrives at the Supreme Court in London.

Julian Assange Prozess Auslieferung Februar 2012

The Supreme Court in Britain rejected an appeal from Julian Assange against his extradition to Sweden.

"The request for Mr Assange's extradition has been lawfully made and his appeal against extradition is accordingly dismissed," Supreme Court President Nicholas Phillips said Wednesday. An unusually large panel of seven judges had considered the case.

Watch video 01:29

The court said it had been a difficult case

Assange is better known for releasing hundreds of thousands of classified documents on the Internet - mostly belonging to the US government.

Sweden issued a European arrest warrant against Julian Assange in December 2010, after two women said he tried to have sex with them without using a condom, in one case initiating the act while the woman was asleep. The charges stem from a visit he made to Sweden earlier that year.

Assange has described both encounters as consensual and his lawyer once called the allegations a "honey-trap," designed to ensure he is charged for his online activities. He has not been held in custody, but has worn an electronic ankle tag and reported to police daily since late 2010.

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted by military police from the courthouse after the sixth day of his Article 32 hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland in this December 21, 2011 photo

Assange's prime source Bradley Manning is in US custody

Wednesday's verdict from the highest court in Britain represented the last domestic legal option open to Assange. Assange could only lodge a further appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The court in the border town of Strasbourg in eastern France would have 14 days to decide whether to hear the appeal.

That final option would not necessarily prevent the extradition, however, as the ECHR could still hear Assange's case while he was in Sweden. The founder of the WikiLeaks website might seek a separate interim order from the ECHR prohibiting his extradition.

The former online hacker says the ultimate goal of the authorities is to arrange his extradition to the US. That's where his primary source of classified information, US soldier Bradley Manning, is facing a court martial over allegations of handing thousands of documents over to WikiLeaks.

msh/ccp (AFP, AP)

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