A decision on the extradition of WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange from the UK to Sweden will be announced by a London court on February 24, even as his lawyers doubted a fair trial in the Scandinavian country.
Belmarsh Magistrate's Court announced the date at the end of the three-day long hearing on Friday. The extradition trial of Assange, accused of sexual assault in Sweden, was adjourned. The court will deliver its verdict on February 24. In the extradition case, spotlight turned on Swedish law. Assange's lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, argued that inflammatory remarks by the Swedish prime minister have made Assange "public enemy No. 1" in Sweden and that bias against him would preclude him from receiving a fair trial. He requested that the judge refuse to extradite Assange.
Robertson also asked for the trial to be adjourned so that he could bring in witnesses from Sweden to testify on the effect of the Swedish prime minister's comments on the public opinion of Assange. That request was denied. According to Robertson, Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt also "accused Assange of claiming women's rights are worthless" and described his comments as "devastating vilification."
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Reinfeldt lashed out against Assange and his defense for arguing that Sweden's extradition request was politically motivated. "I can only defend what everyone in Sweden already knows: that we have an independent, non-coerced judiciary," Reinfeldt said. His remarks reflected anger among many Swedes over defence claims that Assange was the victim of a "malicious" feminist prosecutor and would be denied a fair trial in the Scandinavian country.
Sweden wants Assange extradited in order to stand trial on sexual assault charges that came to light last year. Assange denies any wrongdoing in the encounters in question. Assange's defence has also argued that the Swedish extradition request was made in order to make it easier to extradite him to the US, where he is wanted for arrest on national security grounds.
It's unclear what exactly he would be charged with by the US, but Assange's lawyers claim that he could be subject to the death penalty. While he has denied the charges, Assange and his defense team have skillfully presented the image of an unfair and compromised Swedish judiciary to bolster their case against extradition.