Julian Assange arrest warrant still stands, court rules

Julian AssangeImage copyright

Image caption

The WikiLeaks founder has been living at the Ecuadorean embassy for more than five years

A UK arrest warrant against Julian Assange is still valid, Westminster Magistrates’ Court has ruled.

Lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder asked the court to withdraw the warrant, saying it had “lost its purpose”.

It was issued in 2012 after he allegedly breached bail conditions by seeking asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy, where he has remained.

He had been facing extradition to Sweden to answer sex assault claims but these charges have since been dropped.

In her ruling, senior district judge and chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said having considered the arguments, she was “not persuaded that the warrant should be withdrawn”.

She told the court that not surrendering to bail was a standalone offence under the Bail Act and Mr Assange must explain why he failed to do so.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison.

Earlier this month the UK government refused to grant Mr Assange diplomatic status and called on him to leave the embassy to “face justice”.

He has long feared that if he leaves the embassy he could be sent to the US to face trial over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents.

Classified war documents

In April 2017, US attorney general Jeff Sessions said arresting him was a “priority”, and the UK has refused to guarantee that he will not be extradited.

Wikileaks, which was founded by Mr Assange in 2006, has been involved in several high-profile releases of classified US information.

It made headlines around the world in April 2010 when it released footage showing US soldiers shooting dead 18 civilians from a helicopter in Iraq.

Mr Assange promoted and defended the video, as well as the massive release of classified US military documents on the Afghan and Iraq wars in July and October 2010.

The website continued to release new documents, including five million confidential emails from US-based intelligence company Stratfor.

Source : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42964699