By Muhammad Mussa
LONDON (AA) – Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, continues to face arrest by British authorities if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy, after a U.K. judge upheld his arrest warrant Tuesday afternoon, local media reported.
Senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot handed down her ruling at the Westminster Magistrates Court and said she was not persuaded by the argument presented by Assange’s legal team that it was not in the public’s interest to continue his arrest warrant for skipping bail in 2012.
“I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr. Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years,” The Guardian quoted the judge as saying.
Assange, 46, has been held up at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London for 6 years after claiming asylum in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was accused of sexual assault and rape, a claim he denies.
Though Swedish prosecutors have since dropped the investigation against him, he still faces arrest by the U.K. police for breaching former bail conditions in 2012. Any arrest, Assange argues, will lead to extradition to the U.S. where he is wanted in connection for the publishing of classified military documents by his organization WikiLeaks.
Assange’s legal team had requested for the warrant to be withdrawn since Sweden has dropped extradition requests and have relied on a technical point, arguing that the warrant has “lost its purpose and function” since criminal investigations are no longer in motion.
Mark Summers QC, the lawyer representing Assange, argued that the years he has spent confined within the embassy were “adequate, if not severe” punishment for his actions. He also cited a UN committee report which declared the Australian national’s current situation as being arbitrarily detained.
“Note that a win is a win, but even if we lose the first point today the hearing may immediately continue on another,” Assange wrote on Twitter, implying that he aims to contest the ruling.