British Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle is expected to deliver a verdict in the Julian Assange extradition case at a Thursday hearing scheduled to begin at 10 AM British time, meaning that the verdict will be known within a matter of hours.
Both sides have already said that they intend to appeal if they lose, so today’s ruling may not settle the issue, but is the latest milestone in the long-standing efforts of the Swedish government to secure the extradition of Assange for “questioning,” even though they have yet to actually charge him with a crime.
One expert in British extradition law predicted that Assange would lose the case, saying that the WikiLeaks founder would basically have to “prove his innocence” to avoid the extradition, an extremely difficult task.
Of course, underlying the case is the concern that the Swedish government has no intention of ever charging Assange with anything, but would simply transfer him to the US, where he has been condemned as a “terrorist” by top officials, and a number of them have called for his immediate execution.
The legal basis for extradition from Britain to Sweden ought to be fairly straightforward, and if that was as far as it went Assange likely would not have objected in the first place. It is the concern that he will find himself in the Obama Administration’s hands, and possibly “disappear” into some US black site, that has fueled this concern, and it is that possibility that will likely be weighing heavily on the mind of the magistrate in his ruling.
Another concern, should Assange lose, is the prospect of wholesale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against British government websites, as there is considerable anger about the treatment of Assange. Officials say the sites are “bracing” for this possibility, but it is extremely difficult to prevent such attacks if they are on a large enough scale.