London: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks whose expose embarrassed several governments, Wednesday lost an appeal in a British court and now could be extradited to Sweden where he faces allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Two Swedish women had accused Assange, 40, of sexual abuse following his visit to Stockhom in August 2010. He had then appealed in the high court against a European arrest warrant issued by Swedish prosecutors.
The Australian has denied the allegations and claimed they are politically motivated.
The high court order means that he could be removed to Sweden within 10 days, reported guardian.co.uk.
The WikiLeaks founder has been practically under house arrest in Norfolk since December 2010.
He has to sign in at a police station every day, wear an electronic tag and has to be back inside the house by 10 p.m. each night.
Swedish prosecutors say that Assange has been “detained in his absence on probable cause suspected of rape (less severe crime), sexual molestation and unlawful coercion”.
Assange’s lawyers say they will appeal at the Supreme Court. They have 14 days to bring the case to the highest court on grounds that it raises issues of general public importance, said BBC.
A crowd gathered outside the court as Assange was inside. Banners read “Free Assange! Free Manning! End the wars”.
The judges in their ruling said the issuing of the European arrest warrant was lawful and proportionate.
“It is clear that the allegation is that he had sexual intercourse with her when she was not in a position to consent and so he could not have had any reasonable belief that she did,” BBC quoted the judges as saying.
“This is self evidently not a case relating to a trivial offence, but to serious sexual offences.
“Assuming proportionality is a requirement, it is difficult to see what real scope there is for the (appeal) argument in circumstances where a Swedish Court of Appeal has taken the view, as part of Swedish procedure, that an arrest is necessary,” the judges added.
WikiLeaks has revealed a large number of leaked diplomatic cables that left several governments red-faced.
In April 2010, WikiLeaks released Collateral Murder, which was the video footage of a US air crew shooting Iraqi civilians in 2007.
Stating that it had a database of 1.2 million documents within a year of its 2006 launch, WikiLeaks had carried out a string of leaks in 2010.
The US Embassy cables, Afghanistan war logs and Iraq war logs were some of the WikiLeaks that grabbed international headlines.