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Top U.K. Court Backs Assange Extradition To Sweden

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Britain's Supreme Court has ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault charges.

The high court, by a five-to-two majority, rejected Assange’s claim that his arrest warrant in Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about alleged sexual assaults of two women, was invalid.

The decision does not mean Assange will be extradited to Sweden immediately. The court gave his lawyers two weeks to seek to reopen the case after they argued the ruling was based on evidence that had not been argued in the appeal.

Assange has been fighting deportation since his arrest in Britain in December 2010 on a European warrant.

He was not in court to hear the latest ruling.

"The request for Mr. Assange's extradition has been lawfully made and his appeal against extradition is accordingly is dismissed," Britain's Supreme Court president, Nicholas Phillips, announced.

Two lower British courts have already ruled that the Australian national can be extradited.

The sexual assaults allegedly occurred in August, 2010, when Assange visited Sweden.

He denies the charges but refuses to return to Sweden, saying he fears he could be transferred to U.S. custody.

Assange became known worldwide when in 2010 Wikileaks released tens of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic messages. The disclosures, and Assange's leadership role in WikiLeaks, have been harshly condemned by Washington.

Assange has been living under strict bail conditions at the home of a wealthy friend in England.

WikiLeaks created a media firestorm with its releases of confidential messages sent between U.S. officials about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and private analyses of the political situations in scores of countries.

The organization has faced withering criticism from U.S. officials and politicians for allegedly putting lives at risk by blowing the cover of sources who spoke to U.S. diplomats and intelligence agents in countries where it was dangerous to do so.

The suspected source of the biggest leaks -- on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, is in U.S. custody. Manning is facing 22 criminal charges and, if convicted, could be sentenced to life in prison.

Funding for the WikiLeaks website has dropped off after U.S. credit-card companies Visa and MasterCard blocked donations to the site in reaction to the leaks.

Assange, however, still has his supporters.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP