Tuesday, 19 February, 2019

Assange´s plea to cancel arrest warrant rejected

13 Feb 2018, 18:40 ( 13 Feb, 2018)

DF-Xinhua Report
File Photo Xinhua.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had his hopes of freedom dashed Tuesday when a judge in London upheld a warrant for his arrest on a charge of skipping bail.

The 46-year-old Australian has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 fearing arrest if he leaves the building, potentially paving the way for him to be extradited to the United States.

Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot delivered her ruling Tuesday at Westminster magistrates court in London stating it is in the public interest to pursue him for failing to surrender to his bail.

She said: "I find arrest is a proportionate response even though 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. He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favor," added the judge.

Assange moved into the embassy originally to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was wanted for questioning over an allegation of a sexual assault which he has always denied.

The Metropolitan Police hold the warrant for his arrest if he steps outside the compound even though the Swedish authorities have now dropped their investigation against him.

Assange's barrister Mark Summers argued that arresting him was no longer proportionate or in the public interest, saying the years Assange has spent inside the embassy were adequate, if not severe punishment for his actions.

The Guardian reported Tuesday that Assange's lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said before the hearing that the U.S. government had made clear its intention to bring a prosecution against WikiLeaks.

"The UK FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] refuses to confirm or deny whether there is an extradition request for Assange," she said, adding the Crown Prosecution Service in Britain has refused to disclose certain material because it would "tip off" Assange about a possible U.S. extradition request.

"It is time to acknowledge what the real issue is and has always been in this case the risk of extradition to the United States," Robinson said.