Mr Assange's case in the Supreme Court in London
Over the last two days the UK Supreme Court in London has been hearing arguments concerning the proposed extradition to Sweden of Mr Assange (of Wikileaks fame).
I cannot beat the Supreme Court's own brief summary of the facts and the legal issue.
"The Appellant, a journalist well known through his operation of Wikileaks, visited Sweden to give a lecture in August 2010. He had sexual relations with two women. Both women went to the police who treated their visits as the filing of complaints. The Appellant was interviewed by police and subsequently left Sweden in ignorance of the fact that a domestic arrest warrant had been issued for him. Proceedings were brought in the Swedish courts in the Appellant’s absence, although he was represented, in which a domestic warrant for the Appellant’s detention for interrogation was granted and upheld on appeal. Subsequently, an European Arrest Warrant for the Appellant was issued by the Swedish Prosecution Authority that set out allegations of four offences of unlawful coercion and sexual misconduct including rape."
"Whether a European Arrest Warrant issued by a public prosecutor is a valid Part 1 EAW issued by a “judicial authority” for the purpose and within the meaning of sections 2 and 66 of the Extradition Act 2003."
So we have been treated to two full days of detailed legal arguments about the meaning of the phrase "judicial authority".
On behalf of Mr Assange it was contended that a "judicial authority" is one which is independent of the government executive and also independent of the parties to the litigation in question (for example a judge in court). Since the Swedish Prosecution Authority is one of the parties in the litigation the defence contend that it cannot be a "judicial authority". It follows that the European Arrest Warrant issued against Mr Assange is not valid and the UK courts should not act upon it to order his extradition to Sweden.
On behalf of the Swedish Prosecution Authority it was contended that a "judicial authority" is one which is a part of the administration of justice (for example a police force). The Swedish Prosecution Authority therefore is a "judicial authority" and so the Warrant is valid and the UK courts are obliged to act upon it and Mr Assange should be extradited to Sweden.
Opposing counsel spent their time chasing through European legal documents and documents of individual European states (including of course English ones) pointing out where (in their view) these supported their (opposing) contentions as to the meaning of the phrase "judicial authority".
In some of these the term "judicial authority" had been expressly defined to include, for example, public prosecutors. Interestingly (and as often happens) this evidence could be seen as supporting either of the opposing contentions.
Counsel for the Swedish Prosecution Authority expressed the view that these examples showed the wide meaning of the term "judicial authority".
Counsel for Mr Assange expressed the view that these were examples of an extended and unusual definition of "judicial authority" - which is precisely why it had been necessary to include an express definition in those particular pieces of legislation.
There is no definition of the term "judicial authority" in the extradition legislation.
At the end of hearing argument the Supreme Court justices retired. Their decision will be published at a future date (which could be weeks or months from now).
If I were a betting man I would place my 50 pence on Mr Assange to win.
Of course none of this had anything to do with whether or not Mr Assange had actually committed the offences of which he has been accused. That would be a matter for another court in another country.
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