A British court has upheld the arrest warrant against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been claiming political asylum for almost six years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Judge Emma Arbuthnot dismissed the defence’s argument that pursuing Assange for violating his bail conditions is not in the public interest, and has reiterated a decision she made on February 6 to maintain the warrant.
In 2012 Assange requested political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in the United Kingdom in order to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he has been wanted since 2010 in relation to accusations of rape and sexual assault that he denies committing.
Assange fears that his arrest could lead to his extradition to the United States, where he would be tried for the disclosure in 2010, through WikiLeaks, of files containing thousands of classified military documents and confidential diplomatic communications from the United States, provided by Chelsea Manning, who was subsequently tried in the United States for espionage.
The Swedish prosecutor’s office shelved the investigation against Assange in May of last year, but the arrest warrant in the United Kingdom remained in force for violating his bail conditions in 2012.
Assange’s defence had argued that the cause should be abandoned because his arrest is not in the public interest. Judge Arbuthnot dismissed this argument saying: “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.”
The Ecuadorian authorities, in an effort to find a way out of the impasse granted Assange Ecuadorian citizenship last December. But London refused to grant him the diplomatic status that would have allowed him to leave the embassy without being stopped by the British police.
Last week, following the decision of the British justice to maintain the arrest warrant, Ecuador assured that it would continue protecting the founder of WikiLeaks “while his life is in danger”.