LONDON – Time seems to be running out for Julian Assange, whose long battle to avoid extradition to Sweden over suspected rape and molestation cases appears likely to end in failure unless he can get Britain’s highest court to hear an appeal.
In a major setback Wednesday in London’s High Court, two British judges rejected Assange’s move to block extradition to face questioning in Sweden. Court officials said Wednesday that Assange plans to try to take the case to Britain’s Supreme Court.
“He has indicated that he plans to launch an appeal,” a spokeswoman for the Judicial Office said.
It is possible his request for an appeal will be turned down, making extradition virtually inevitable.
Wednesday’s ruling is the latest reversal for Assange, whose secret-spilling organization is on the brink of financial ruin. The group has suspended publishing the sensitive government documents that drew the ire of governments worldwide because of money woes.
Assange has denied any wrongdoing in the alleged rape of one woman and the molestation of another in Stockholm last year. He and his followers have maintained the sex crimes investigation is politically motivated by those opposed to WikiLeaks.
He has deeply polarized public opinion, appearing on Europe’s Most Wanted List while winning praise in some quarters as a brave advocate for freedom of speech and for challenging government power.
Assange did not seem angry or visibly upset outside London’s High Court.
“We will be considering our next steps in the days ahead,” he told reporters and supporters.
But experts said his legal options are now extremely limited.
“I think it’s highly likely that he’ll be in Sweden before the end of the year,” said Julian Knowles, an extradition lawyer not involved in the case.
Vaughan Smith, the owner of the country mansion where Assange is living out on bail, said his friend’s prospects appeared bleak. “It’s not good news,” he said.