Assange sees hopes of freedom dashed by London judge

Updated 2018-02-07 10:44:02 Xinhua

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange delivers a speech from the balcony of Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Britain, on Dec. 20, 2012. (File photo: Xinhua/Bimal Gautam)

Hopes of freedom for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange were dashed Tuesday when a judge in London ruled an arrest warrant was still valid.

Assange has been holed up since 2012 in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, fearing his arrest could pave the way for him being extradited to the U.S. to face prosecution for publishing classified information through Wikileaks.

Assange was given a glimmer of hope when Swedish prosecutors dropped sex assault claims which lay at the heart of the original arrest warrant.

The warrant was issued in London over his failure to answer bail over the claims in Sweden.

Armed with the latest decision by Swedish prosecutors, Assange's legal team put forward an argument that as the case against him had been dropped, the arrest warrant was no longer applicable.

But senior judge and chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot ruled the arrest warrant still stood, saying she was not persuaded it should be withdrawn.

Arbuthnot said at Westminster Magistrates Court that as the failure to surrender to bail was a stand-alone offence Assange had to explain why he had failed to comply.

Assange's barrister Mark Summers said the five and a half years he had spent in the embassy in London may be thought to be adequate, if not severe punishment, for the actions that he took.

His lawyers said later they would continue to seek assurances that British authorities did not have a U.S. extradition warrant and would let him leave Britain freely and without interference.

Jennifer Robinson, a member of WikiLeaks' legal team, said: "Mr. Assange remains willing to answer to British justice in relation to any argument about breach of bail, but not at the expense of facing injustice in America. This case is, and has always been, about the risk of extradition to the US and that risk remains real."

Politician and London radio presenter Nigel Farage, founder of the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party, said on his social media site the UK government's refusal to clarify whether Assange would be extradited to the US is unfair.

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