Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder and international whistleblower icon, lost his appeal on Wednesday at the Supreme Court in London against extradition to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual assault.
However, Assange’s legal team was granted 14 days to ask the Supreme Court to reopen the case, thanks to some quick legal maneuvering by his lawyers to challenge one of the points made in the judgment.
Assange himself, ever elusive, was not present in court at the time, reportedly “stuck in traffic,” according to his lawyer, Gareth Peirce. He will not be required to leave the country until June 13 at the earliest, provided his lawyers do not succeed in their 11th-hour attempt to challenge the decision.
The point his lawyers are questioning is the fact that a majority of the justices based their decision on crucial issues related to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which were not aired or debated during the hearing.
Peirce explained the technicality to the media outside the courtroom: “They’ve allowed us two weeks to put in a written submission on the fact that the majority of judges have decided on a basis that was never argued in court by anyone, that was never addressed in court,”
Needless to say, Assange lucked out. The Daily Telegraph called the emergency challenge a “rare technicality” and The Guardian said it was the “first time” the Supreme Court has ever agreed to consider such a dispute against its rulings and added it “must be very embarrassing” for the justices.
The Australian maverick’s lawyers will also build an appeal against the judgment to present to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, described as the “option of a last-ditch appeal” by Agence France-Presse.
Assange supporters protested outside the central London courtroom, with one carrying a banner reading “God save Julian,” and many with stickers over their mouths, presumably to represent the idea that Assange’s freedom of speech cause will be muffled by his potential extradition.
Assange has been accused of rape and sexual molestation by two women he reportedly stayed with in Stockholm in August 2010. He does not deny having sex with the women, who were WikiLeaks volunteers in Sweden, but insists that it was consensual. He and his supporters are concerned that his extradition will lead to him to be transferred to the U.S., where he has caused trouble for the authorities over his leaked documents and cables. Bradley Manning, a U.S. soldier, is already facing court martial in the States over accusations he handed documents to WikiLeaks.
But it appears Assange will have a little more time before he goes anywhere. As The Guardian notes, “he lives to fight another day.”