Julian Assange loses challenge to UK arrest warrant, court to rule on new bid next week

(UK, LANKAPUVATH) –Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has lost one legal bid to have a UK arrest warrant against him quashed but immediately launched another, to have the British authorities halt any action against him on public interest grounds.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot said she would give her decision on February 13.

A ruling in Mr Assange’s favour could pave the way for him to leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he has been holed up for more than five years.

Mr Assange, 46, entered the embassy in an apartment in the wealthy district of Knightsbridge to avoid extradition to Sweden to face an allegation of rape, which he denied.
The Swedish case has since been dropped, but Assange was still subject to the British warrant for breaching his bail conditions in 2012.

He has said he feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over Wikileaks’ publication of leaked US military and diplomatic documents.

Had the judge ruled in Mr Assange’s favour, he would have been free to leave the embassy without being arrested on the British warrant.

Judge Arbuthnot had earlier rejected a legal argument to have the arrest warrant against him quashed on the basis that with the Swedish case dropped there was no longer any justification for it.

“I am not persuaded that the warrant should be withdrawn,” Judge Arbuthnot, the chief magistrate of England and Wales, said during the hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court.

Mr Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers then launched a separate argument that even if his client was arrested and brought to court, it would not be in the interests of justice to take any further action.

He said Assange had “reasonable grounds” for fleeing to the embassy in 2012 because of his fear that he would ultimately be extradited to the United States.

A United Nations working group has ruled his present situation is “arbitrary, unreasonable, unnecessary and disproportionate,” Mr Summers noted.

“The last five-and-a-half years he has spent might be thought adequate, if not severe punishment for the actions he took,” he added.

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