Arrest warrant against Julian Assange still stands, court rules

A court has upheld the validity of an arrest warrant against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Feb 6, 2018

A court has upheld the validity of an arrest warrant against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Lawyers for Assange had argued that the outstanding warrant – which dates back to 2012 –should be dismissed because it had “lost its purpose and function” after a Swedish investigation over sex-related allegations was dropped last year. He has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than five years, fearing extradition to the US for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks. Mr Assange’s legal team says the UK arrest warrant serves no legitimate purpose, but has been maintained anyway. But Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot said on Tuesday (February 6) that she was not persuaded that the warrant should be withdrawn. In front of a packed public gallery at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, she said not surrendering to bail was a standalone offence under the Bail Act. She said on a “straightforward reading” of the section that Mr Assange has been bailed; he has failed to surrender; and if he has no reasonable cause he will be guilty of an offence. The judge added: “Once at court, a defendant will be given an?opportunity?to put an argument for reasonable cause. And that is when Mr Assange will be able to place that before the court. “I’m not persuaded that the warrant should be withdrawn.” Last month when lawyers asked the London court to consider dropping the arrest warrant, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said there was is a “hypothetical chance” Mr Assange could soon walk free from his embassy incarceration. Mr Assange, 46, has been inside the Ecuadorian building since 2012 after skipping bail to avoid extradition to Sweden over an allegation of rape, which he denies. He had feared Sweden would hand him over to the US to face prosecution over WikiLeaks` publication of swathes of classified military and diplomatic documents. Tuesday’s hearing is the latest push by Mr Assange to find a way to leave the building without arrest. While the Swedish investigation is no longer being actively pursued, the Metropolitan Police Service says the Wikileaks founder will still be arrested if he leaves the embassy after the Foreign Office turned down a request to grant him diplomatic status.

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