A British judge has approved Sweden’s request to extradite Julian Assange, although the embattled WikiLeaks founder has criticised the European arrest warrant system.
District Judge, Howard Riddle, rejected arguments that Assange would not get a fair trial in Sweden due to the country’s custom of excluding press and the public from sexual assault trials.

The 39-year-old Australian is accused of unlawful coercion, sexual molestation and rape involving two women last August, but  Assange maintains his involvement with the two women was consensual.

Assange is still to be charged by Swedish prosecutors. His attorneys have argued against extradition.

If he is charged and convicted, Assange could face a maximum of four years in prison.

Assange’s lawyers suggested during the two-and-a-half day extradition hearing held earlier this month that Sweden’s pursuit of Assange is connected to the continued release of some 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables by Wikileaks.

The U.S. Attorney General’s office has said Assange has been under investigation to determine if he played a role in illegally obtaining classified U.S. material, but no charges have been filed.

Observers, however, say the sexual assault charges are a fabrication and the embattled WikiLeaks founder is in fact, being persecuted for the release of the cables that have provoked strong statements from some U.S. politicians, with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee calling for the death penalty on those who released the cables, while former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Assange should be hunted down with the same urgency as al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Wikileaks came under scrutiny by the US after it leaked documents that exposed the US external interference in many countries among them Zimbabwe.

One of the cables leaked exposed MDC-T secretary general Tendai Biti’s role in the choosing of those to be included or removed from the illegal sanctions list.