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UK Supreme Court will hear Assange extradition appeal in February

Seven justices will hear Assange's appeal because of its importance, the court said

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been granted permission to take his fight against extradition to Sweden to the U.K.'s Supreme Court.

The court on Friday accepted Assange's application and scheduled hearings for Feb. 1 and 2. Seven justices will hear Assange's appeal "given the great public importance of the issue raised," according to a statement issued by the Supreme Court.

The court said the issue at hand is whether a prosecutor is a judicial authority, which Assange's legal team has challenged repeatedly in other appeals.

Assange turned himself in to U.K. police in December 2010 after a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was issued at the request of Swedish prosecutors.

Swedish authorities have not charged Assange. However, Assange's lawyers have in two other unsuccessful appeals hearings earlier this year argued that the EAW mischaracterizes the incidents and its issuance is improper when he is wanted merely for questioning.

A Swedish government lawyer argued in February during Assange's first appeal against extradition that prosecutors do have an intention to prosecute. Two women have accused Assange of rape and molestation following incidents in August 2010, while he maintains the encounters were consensual.

The U.K. Supreme Court is a new institution and replaced the placed the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, which was the highest U.K. Court, in October 2009. It seats a maximum of 12 justices and takes on cases determined to be of public importance on points of law.

Assange remains free on bail but must check in with police daily. He appeared earlier this month at City University in London to announce the release of documents related to companies that sell electronic surveillance equipment.

Assange said WikiLeaks is working on a new system for whistle blowers to submit leaks. But the website's work has been hampered by security issues and a continuing blockade by payment processors it used to receive donations.

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