Julian Assange extradition hearing: what’s going on

7 February 2011 by

Updated | Julian Assange, the founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, is in court today for the beginning of a two-day extradition hearing. Sweden have issued a European Arrest Warrant against Assange on suspicion of sexual assault.

Journalist tweeters at Assange’s bail hearings prompted a flurry of new court guidance on tweeting in court, culminating last week with the Supreme Court.

Unsurprisingly, a number of people are tweeting from the hearing, including the Times’ Alexi Mostrous, Joshua Rozenberg, the Guardian’s Esther Addley and Channel 4’s Marcus Edwards (click on their names to see their Twitter feeds). Guardian.co.uk is also publishing live updates.

Assange’s skeleton argument, that is a summary of his legal arguments, can be found here (update – this is now the final version). You can find my previous post on the subject here, including an explanation of the law surrounding his potential extradition. Carl Gardner, of the Head of Legal blog, also provides an excellent post here. Assange’s arguments are as follows:

(1) Ms. Ny was not eligible to issue the EAW.

(2) Ms. Ny is not “a judicial authority”. (3) These proceedings are an abuse of process because the warrant is being sought for a

collateral purpose, namely so as forcibly to bring Mr. Assange to Sweden for questioning, without any fixed intention at the time of its issue to charge or arrest or prosecute him.

(4) The EAW is not a Part 1 warrant for the purposes of section 2(3)(b) of the Act, because it is not issued “with a view to his arrest … for the purpose of being prosecuted for the offence” and/or because it fails to provide sufficient particulars under s2(4)(c) of the Act because the offences are not described with sufficient particularity.

(5) The application for the EAW is disproportionate given the prosecutor’s refusal to resort to mutual legal assistance or to question Mr. Assange by telephone, videolink, Skype, on affidavit or during his proffered attendance at the Swedish Embassy or New Scotland Yard.

(6) Offences 1-3 do not constitute extradition offences because the conduct alleged would not amount to an offence under English law.

(7) Offence 4 is not an extradition offence because the conduct does not fall within the European Framework offence of rape.

(8) The extradition of Mr. Assange to Sweden would involve the real risk of a flagrant denial of his human rights, especially because the trial would be held in secret. Sending him abroad to face a trial where justice would not be seen to be done would blatantly offend the UK’s due process and open justice traditions, and breach Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000/C 364/01) (Charter) and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The hearing should last until the end of Tuesday, at which point the judge may choose to reserve his judgment, that is release a fully reasoned decision at a later date. It seems likely that the case will be appealed whichever way the judge rules, which means there may be no conclusive judgment for months. Watch this space.

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