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Julian Assange loses latest legal bid to have arrest warrant dropped

Julian Assange has lost his latest legal battle to overturn an outstanding arrest warrant against him so he can walk free from the Ecuadorian embassy.

The WikiLeaks founder, 46, has been holed up in the building in Knightsbridge for the past five years.

He was granted shelter by Ecuador in 2012 after being accused of rape in Sweden, which applied to extradite him to stand trial.

The rape allegation, which he denied, was dropped last year but Assange still refused to leave the embassy while a separate UK arrest warrant for breaching his bail conditions remained in effect.

His lawyers made an application to senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, for the UK warrant to be withdrawn, saying it is not in the public interest to go ahead with proceedings against him.



The judge rejected the application and said: “He feels he is above the law. His failure to surrender has impacted the course of justice. He should have the courage to come to court.”

Judge Arbuthnot said: "When considering the public interest… I must look at the impact on public confidence in the criminal justice system if Mr Assange is allowed to avoid a warrant for his arrest by staying out of reach of the police for years in conditions which are nothing like a prison."

Handing down her judgment before a packed courtroom Judge Emma Arbuthnot said she was not persuaded by the argument.

She said: "I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.

"Defendants on bail up and down the country, and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices.

"He should have the courage to do the same.

"It is certainly not against the public interest to proceed."

She added: "The impression I have, and this may well be dispelled if and when Mr Assange finally appears in court, is that he is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice, whether the course of justice is in this jurisdiction or in Sweden.

"He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour.

"As long as the court process is going his way, he is willing to be bailed conditionally but as soon as the Supreme Court rules against him, he no longer wants to participate on the court’s terms but on his terms.

"I have had to consider whether it is proportionate not to withdraw the warrant for his arrest.

"On the one hand he is a man who has failed to attend court and has thwarted the course of justice but on the other he has been unable to leave a small flat for a number of years and is suffering physically and mentally as a result.

"Having weighed up the factors for and against and considered Mr Summers’ arguments I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.

"Defendants on bail up and down the country, and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices.

"He should have the courage to do so too.

"It is certainly not against the public interest to proceed.

"If found guilty the court will have the sentencing options available to it including that of committal to the Crown Court if the court finds its sentencing options to be too limited."

Assange claimed his case had exposed "improper conduct" by the Crown Prosecution Service, and his barrister Mark Summers QC had claimed emails showed a CPS lawyer apparently persuading the Swedish prosecutor not to drop the case.

He has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than five years, fearing extradition to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks if he leaves.

He accused the UK of a "cover-up" to keep him detained, and his lawyer Jennifer Robinson said the Government had refused to confirm or deny whether there is an extradition request from the US.

Judge Arbuthnot last week rejected his legal team’s argument that the warrant was no longer valid because an investigation by the Swedish authorities into a sex-related allegation had been dropped.

Even if the decision had gone his way, he might still have elected to remain in the embassy, where he has been granted political asylum, because he fears Britain would arrest him under a U.S. extradition warrant, the existence of which has neither been confirmed nor denied.

Assange fears being taken into custody if he leaves the embassy and handed over to America to stand trial for the activities of WikiLeaks.

The website caused an international storm in 2010 when it published a series of leaks from US soldier Chelsea Manning.

The leaks enraged Washington and included thousands of secret US diplomatic cables that were highly critical of world leaders, including Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s royal family.

He was seen as a cyber hero for exposing government abuses of power and championing free speech, but to others he was viewed as a criminal who undermined the security of the West by exposing secrets.

He has recently been accused of speaking to Russian hackers trying to block the election of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 United States presidential election.



He was supported by a host of celebrity backers in 2010 – including socialite Jemima Khan, who put up some of his bail money.

Ecuador confirmed last month it had granted citizenship to Assange .

Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said Assange was "naturalised" as an Ecuadorian on December 12 at his request.

She said she was seeing a "dignified" solution to his situation with Britain.

The minister previously described Assange’s living arrangements in the embassy as "untenable" and said the country was "considering the possibility of mediation".

Earlier, the Foreign Office confirmed it had refused a request by Ecuador for Assange to be given diplomatic status.

Ecuador’s desire to remove Assange from its embassy reportedly grew when he drew the wrath of President Lenín Moreno after criticising his allies abroad on Twitter last year.

Assange supported the separatist movement in Catalonia, but President Moreno backed the Spanish government – despite accusations of police brutality against political activists – and told Assange to avoid making inflammatory statements about the matter.

But he hit back on Twitter: "If President Moreno wants to gag my reporting of human rights abuses in Spain he should say so explicitly – together with the legal basis."

Source: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/julian-assange-loses-latest-legal-12018944

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