World Assange stalemate drags on as judge rules arrest warrant stands

19:03  13 february  2018
19:03  13 february  2018 Source:   nbcnews.com

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LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday lost his second bid in a week to overturn an arrest warrant that has prompted him to take refuge in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy for nearly six years. Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled the warrant must stand

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Image: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: Julian Assange fears he would deported to the U.S. to face charges for publishing secret documents, his lawyers said. © Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Julian Assange fears he would deported to the U.S. to face charges for publishing secret documents, his lawyers said. LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday lost his second bid in a week to overturn an arrest warrant that prompted him to take refuge in London's Ecuadorian Embassy nearly six years ago.

A judge ruled the warrant must stand, leaving Assange's legal position unchanged. Senior district judge, Emma Arbuthnot, dismissed a first attempt to have the warrant dropped last Tuesday.

British authorities issued the warrant in 2012 after Assange, 46, skipped bail to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he faced allegations from two women of rape and sexual assault dating to 2010.

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Although Swedish prosecutors have since dropped the case, British law enforcement officials stand ready to arrest the 46-year-old Australian for breaking his 2012 bail conditions. Assange ‘hypothetically’ free if arrest warrant appeal granted, ruling due February 6.

Had the judge ruled in Assange 's favor on Tuesday, he would have been free to leave the embassy without being arrested on the British warrant . U.S. officials haven't confirmed whether a request for Assange 's extradition has been made. Tuesday's ruling prolongs a stalemate that has kept

Swedish authorities dropped their investigation last year after concluding there was no reasonable hope of bringing Assange to Stockholm to answer questions, but his British warrant remained outstanding. Marianne Ny, the chief prosecutor in Sweden, stressed that she was not declaring Assange innocent, only that he no longer faces any charges in the country. Assange denies the accusations.

Lawyers for Assange argued last week that the warrant ought to be dropped given the Swedish investigation into their client had been terminated, but their motion was ruled against. They then launched a second attempt saying that there was insufficient public interest in upholding the warrant.

His lawyers argued that the years Assange had spent confined to the embassy had been an "adequate, if not severe punishment." A United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in February 2016 that Assange was being arbitrarily detained although British authorities rejected the finding, saying Assange was "in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest."

WikiLeaks founder loses bid to have arrest warrant dropped

  WikiLeaks founder loses bid to have arrest warrant dropped A judge said the arrest warrant for Julian Assange, issued after he skipped bail to avoid extradition on sex assault charges, still stands.A judge ruled the warrant must stand, leaving the 46-year-old's legal position unchanged.

Had the judge ruled in Assange 's favour on Tuesday, he would have been free to leave the embassy without being arrested on the British warrant . Tuesday's ruling prolongs a stalemate that has kept Assange as Ecuador's houseguest for 5 1/2 years.

Julian Assange has been accused of thinking he is “above the normal rules of law” by a judge who ruled his arrest warrant should stand . The Wikileaks founder lost his second bid in as many weeks to quash the warrant for skipping bail on Tuesday

The lawyers also said Assange had had "reasonable grounds" for taking refuge in the embassy because of his fear that he would be deported to the U.S. to face justice for publishing secret documents on WikiLeaks.

"This case is and always has been about the risk of extradition to the United States," Jennifer Robinson, a member of Assange's legal team, said last week.

She also called on the UK to "provide an assurance against extradition."

It is not known whether Assange faces a U.S. indictment because of secrecy rules governing grand jury decisions. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters last April that arresting Assange was "a priority."

"We've already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail," Sessions added.

Despite promising in August 2014 that he would leave the embassy "soon," he would face arrest for jumping bail if he did so. British police stopped maintaining a round-the-clock security presence outside the embassy in October 2015.

Assange rose to prominence after the whistleblower WikiLeaks published a trove of classified U.S. military documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The leaks were the largest of their kind in U.S. military history.

Since then, WikiLeaks released more than 250,000 secret diplomatic cables, as well as emails hacked from the Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential election.

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