British Judge Upholds Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange
WikiLeaks founder still a wanted man in the UK
LONDON (AP) — A British judge on Tuesday upheld a U.K. arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, leaving him still a wanted man in the country where he has spent more than five years inside the Ecuadorean Embassy.
Assange, 46, has been holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London since he took refuge there in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors were investigating allegations of sexual assault and rape made by two women in 2010.
Swedish prosecutors dropped the case last year, but Assange was still subject to the British warrant for breaching his bail conditions in 2012.
After the ruling keeping the warrant in place, the judge agreed to let Assange’s lawyer, Mark Summers, argue in his client’s absence that the warrant should be lifted because it was no longer in the public interest to arrest Assange.
Summers said Assange had several serious health problems including depression, and argued that the five and a half years he has spent inside the embassy were more than adequate punishment for his actions.
Had the judge ruled in Assange’s favor on Tuesday, he would have been free to leave the embassy without being arrested on the British warrant.
Ecuador asked Britain to grant him diplomatic status. Britain refused, saying “the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.”
If Assange decides to appear in British court, he could face a long legal battle against extradition to the U.S. Assange suspects there is a secret U.S. grand jury indictment against him for WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked classified American documents.
Assange lawyer Jennifer Robinson said after the court session that he is willing to face British justice if he receives a guarantee that he will not be sent to the U.S. to face prosecution.
U.S. officials haven’t confirmed whether a request for Assange’s extradition has been made.
British prosecutors had opposed the removal of the warrant, saying Assange shouldn’t be immune from the law simply because he has managed to evade justice for a long time.
Extradition lawyer Rebecca Niblock, of the law firm Kingsley Napley, said before the ruling that Assange’s legal argument was a longshot.
“Failing to surrender to bail is like insulting the court’s authority” and unlikely to go down well with the court, she said.