- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2011

LONDON (AP) — A British court on Monday gave WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange permission to continue his legal battle to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex-crimes allegations.

The decision means Mr. Assange does not face immediate deportation. British judges said Mr. Assange could apply to the Supreme Court to hear one specific point of his legal case, but there is no guarantee that the higher court will accept his request.

In his judgment, Judge John Thomas said Mr. Assange had only a small prospect of persuading the Supreme Court of his arguments.

The “chances of success may be extraordinarily slim” for Mr. Assange’s appeal, Judge Thomas said.

Mr. Assange’s lawyers earlier argued that every European arrest warrant issued by police or prosecutors was flawed, because neither should be considered a judicial authority.

The High Court judges did not indicate whether they agreed with the argument, but they said Mr. Assange’s legal team should have the chance to ask the Supreme Court to grant them a hearing.

Mr. Assange said he was pleased by the ruling.

“The High Court has decided that an issue that arises from my own case is of general public importance and may be of assistance in other cases and should be heard at the Supreme Court,” he said outside the courthouse.

“I think this is the right decision, and I am thankful. The long struggle for justice for me and for others continues.”

Mr. Assange now has 14 days to submit a written request to the Supreme Court, Mr. Assange’s lawyer, Gareth Peirce, said.

“This is positive news for Julian Assange and means he will remain in the U.K. while the court assesses his appeal,” Mr. Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Per E. Samuelsson, said. “It is something we have fought for.”

Claes Borgstrom, the lawyer representing the two women bringing sex-crime charges against Mr. Assange, called the decision regrettable.

“My clients have waited for over a year for a legal conclusion of this, and now they will have to wait even longer,” Mr. Borgstrom said. “Then it will still end with Assange being transferred to Sweden. The rules are very clear about this.”

“I regret he himself doesn’t choose to hand himself over,” Mr. Borgstrom added.

He said the two women had hoped that the last word would be said in the extradition case Monday.

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