The battle is over and Julian Assange has lost round one, with a British judge ordering the Australian to be extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations.
Following two days of hearings this month at a London court, the Chief Magistrate, Senior District Judge Howard Riddle, dismissed claims by the WikiLeaks founder that his extradition was without legal basis and would result in a violation of his human rights.
“I have specifically considered whether the physical or mental condition of the defendant is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him,” Judge Riddle said in his judgment on Thursday (local time).
“In fact I am satisfied that extradition is compatible with the defendant’s convention rights; I must order that Mr Assange be extradited to Sweden.”
Assange, who showed no emotion in court as the decision was read out, told reporters later the case was “nonsense”, he had expected such an outcome, and plans to lodge an appeal with Britain’s High Court.
Watch: Assange speaks to Dateline in the weeks before the ruling
The allegations against him include three counts of sexual assault and one of rape, against two women on two separate occasions in August last year. Assange has not been charged with these offences.
Judge Riddle recounted details of the women’s claims: that in one case Assange “deliberately molested the injured party by acting in a manner designed to violate her sexual integrity”.
His actions were allegedly violent and included holding her arms, forcing apart her legs and putting his body weight on top of her to prevent her movement, later rubbing his erect penis against her body.
Claims by the second woman are that Assange had unprotected sex with her while she slept, knowing she would not consent to unprotected sex and therefore constituting rape.
Assange’s camp says Sweden’s criminal pursuit of the 39-year-old is politically motivated and linked to his website’s release of hundreds-of-thousands of secret government documents.
The United States has launched an investigation into Assange’s WikiLeaks dealings, adding to his fear that if extradited to Sweden, he will be handed on to US authorities and possibly subject to torture.
“There was at one stage a suggestion that Mr Assange could be extradited to the USA (possibly to Guantanamo Bay or to execution as a traitor),” Judge Riddle said.
“The only evidence on the point came from (a) defence witness … who said it couldn’t happen.
“In the absence of any evidence that Mr Assange risks torture or execution (Assange’s lawyer Geoffrey) Robertson was right not to pursue this point.”
Outside court Assange said the judge’s decision had been “hamstrung” by a “European arrest warrant system run amok”.
“What we saw today … was a rubber-stamping process,” Assange told reporters.
“It comes as no surprise, but is nonetheless wrong.”
Back in Australia, his mother Christine Assange told AAP the extradition battle has been a “David and Goliath” situation.
“I would say that what we’re looking at here is political and legal gang rape of my son,” she said.
Assange has seven days to lodge a formal appeal and in the mean time remains on bail, living at a rural English mansion and reporting daily to police.
Assange reminded supporters his battle was “bigger than just me”, asking them to “take this case and bring it back home, make it your own case and your own virtue and in doing so you will not only help yourselves and help each other, but you’ll make this ridiculous time that I spend on this nonsense, worthwhile”.