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Assange appeals extradition to U.K. high court

Updated at 3:04 p.m. ET

LONDON - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made a last-ditch effort Tuesday to stave off his extradition to Sweden over sex-crime allegations, filing papers to see if he can win an audience and appeal to Britain's highest court.

In the latest twist in Assange's year-long extradition battle, Britain's Judicial Office said Assange filed an application for the chance to persuade judges he should be allowed one last appeal in the Supreme Court.

The bid comes two weeks after High Court judges rejected the 40-year-old hacker's challenge to an order that he be extradited to Sweden to face questioning about allegations of rape and molestation.

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Assange is out on bail under virtual house arrest, staying at a supporter's country estate in southern England.

His lawyers now must try to persuade High Court judges at a Dec. 5 hearing to rule that his case raises a question of general public importance and should be considered by the Supreme Court.

Lawyers for Assange could not immediately be reached to explain what the point of "public importance" was.

A website devoted to arguing the WikiLeaks founder's case said the application will ask to raise two points of law with the Supreme Court — whether the European arrest warrant for Assange is valid and issued by the correct authority and if the lack of charges against him makes Assange extraditable.

High Court judges dismissed both those arguments in their hearing on Nov. 2 upholding extradition.

If Assange's request for a Supreme Court appeal is turned down, he could be extradited to Sweden within 10 days.

Allegations against Assange date back to a visit to Sweden in August 2010, shortly after his organization had released secret U.S. files on the war in Afghanistan. Assange became involved with two women — one of whom later accused him of coercion and molestation, another of whom alleged that he had sex with her as she slept.

Swedish prosecutors have not charged Assange with any crime, but have demanded that he return to Scandinavia to face questions.

He denies any wrongdoing and says the sex was consensual. He has insisted the sex crimes investigation is politically motivated by opponents of his organization.

Assange has been vilified by governments — especially the United States — that are angry about their secrets being leaked. He also has earned high praise from others as a free-speech advocate.

WikiLeaks, meanwhile, has been crippled by financial difficulties and has been forced to suspend publishing the sensitive government documents that pushed it into the spotlight.

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson declined to comment on Assange's move for a Supreme Court hearing, saying he did not have the full details.

"This is a personal matter, not a WikiLeaks matter," he told The Associated Press. "This is a separate issue from the organization."