January 20, 2019
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WikiLeaks founder Assange rebuffed in bid to drop British arrest warrant

Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire | TNS
Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire | TNS
Julian Assange speaks on May 19, 2017, from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Julian Assange on Tuesday lost a second bid to quash a British arrest warrant, another setback for the WikiLeaks founder who has spent nearly six years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot denied Assange’s lawyer’s request to lift a British warrant issued after Assange skipping bail when Swedish authorities sought Assange for questioning in a probe of alleged sexual assault.

The Swedish case was dropped last year, but the arrest warrant for skipping bail in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador’s embassy still holds, the judge ruled. Assange has strongly denied the accusations from Sweden.

In London’s Westminster Magistrates Court, Assange sought to have the British warrant lifted, saying it no longer served the public interest.

Assange’s lawyers argued their client was justified in his actions because of fears he would be extradited to the United States for possible charges on classified material that appeared on WikiLeaks.

They also said the last five years Assange has been holed up in the embassy were “adequate if not severe punishment” for his actions.

But the judge was withering in her responses, in writings and in the courtroom.

“I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr. Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years,” the judge said.

“Defendants on bail up and down the country, and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices,” she said. “He should have the courage to do the same. It is certainly not against the public interest to proceed.”

Assange’s lawyers further claimed the 46-year-old suffers in his confinement at Ecuador’s embassy, suffering from medical ailments and lack of sunshine. The judge replied: “I do not accept there is no sunlight. There are a number of photographs of him on a balcony connected to the premises he inhabits. Mr. Assange’s health problems could be much worse.”

The judge’s decision came after Assange lost a separate legal challenge last week.

In that ruling, his lawyers argued the arrest warrant should be dropped because it had “lost its purpose” after Sweden had abandoned an investigation into sexual assault allegations.

Even if the bail arrest warrant were lifted, it is unknown whether Assange would leave the embassy or where he would go. It’s also unclear if he would immediately face extradition charges if he stepped foot outside of the embassy, which is monitored by security cameras.

Assange has long argued there is an effort underway in the United States to charge him for his role in the publication classified U.S. military documents.

It is not publicly known if there is an indictment under the 1917 Espionage Act against Assange. The Justice Department has previously debated the case against him.

Media reports have suggested a sometimes trying relationship between Assange and his hosts. At one point, Ecuador severed Assange’s Internet connection over concerns that WikiLeaks was meddling in the U.S. presidential election after the anti-secrecy website published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee.

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