Britain's highest court has cleared the way for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden, where he faces questioning over alleged sex crimes.
In a 5-2 vote, the British Supreme Court upheld the validity of an arrest warrant made by a Swedish prosecutor to question Assange over accusations by two Swedish women that he sexually assaulted them.
In its ruling, announced at a hearing Wednesday, the court dismissed Assange's argument that the Swedish Prosecution Authority, which issued the warrant in November 2010, did not have the legal authority to do so.
But in a last-minute bid to extend Assange's fight to stay in England, where he has remained under house arrest at a supporter's country manor during the 18-month-long legal battle, his lawyer asked the justice who announced the decision for 14 days to make an application to reopen the case.
The judge granted the request, giving Assange and his legal team until June 13 to submit the application, which the Supreme Court would use to consider whether to resurrect the appeal.
Assange was not present at the court hearing, according to media reports.
In August 2010, police in Sweden began investigating accusations of sexual assault against Assange made by two women. According to British police documents, one of the accusers claims Assange pulled her clothes off, pinioned her arms and legs and refused to use a condom. She told a friend that the act was both violent and the worst sex she'd ever had. A British attorney representing Swedish prosecutors told the court earlier this year that Assange had raped the second woman while she was sleeping.
Assange has been under house arrest in a mansion in the British countryside since December 2010. He has hosted a television talk show on the international cable channel Russia Today, or RT, from the house since March.
In Assange's autobiography, "Julian Assange: The Unauthorized Autobiography," which was published in September 2011 over Assange's objections, he called the assault accusations a "misunderstanding" with former friends.
Over the past few years, Assange has thrust himself into the spotlight as the man behind some of the largest intelligence leaks in U.S. history.
WikiLeaks was founded in 2006, and began releasing confidential and sensational information, including battle footage, Scientology manuals, government documents and Sarah Palin's private emails. In early 2010, it released a video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter strike that killed Iraqi civilians and two Reuters employees. In late 2010, it began releasing 250,000 classified U.S. State Department cables.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.