A series of appeals of District Judge Howard Riddle’s decision, scheduled for today, on Sweden’s request to extradite the 39-year-old Australian to face sexual-misconduct allegations is almost inevitable, lawyers said.
“I don’t expect this will be the end of the story,” Michael Caplan, a lawyer at Kingsley Napley in London, said in a telephone interview. “Ultimately I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes all the way to the Supreme Court” of Britain.
Caplan represented General Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean leader who was arrested in London in October 1998 on an international arrest warrant for human rights violations issued by a Spanish prosecutor. The dispute over extradition in that case took almost 18 months.
Also representing Pinochet was lawyer Clare Montgomery, who is currently working for the prosecution in the Assange case.
Assange’s defense lawyers Mark Stephens and Geoffrey Robertson have said the push to bring him to Sweden, where two women have accused him of rape and sexual molestation, may be politically motivated. U.S. agencies are investigating WikiLeaks’ posting of thousands of classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents on the Internet.
If extradited, Assange’s lawyers claim he could eventually be sent to the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and face a death sentence for espionage. Prosecutors have said the case isn’t related to WikiLeaks. Stephens regularly represents media organizations including Bloomberg News.
Assange himself predicted a lengthy court battle after a hearing in the case earlier this month, saying “Inevitably one side or the other will appeal” the ruling.
While European arrest warrants are supposed to be handled quickly, Dan Hyde, a criminal lawyer at Cubism Law in London, said the appeals process for Assange could take “well in excess of a year.”
“The higher up the system you go, the longer it takes to get a court date,” Hyde said in a telephone interview. “After going to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, Assange’s lawyers could follow it all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.”
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