London Judge Won’t Drop Warrant for Julian Assange

Julian Assange greets supporters outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London on May 19, 2017. Sweden’s top prosecutor says she is dropping an investigation into a rape claim against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after almost seven years. Assange took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London in 2012 to escape extradition to Sweden to answer questions about sex-crime allegations from two women. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

(CN) – Swedish authorities no longer want WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange extradited on sexual-misconduct allegations, but a judge found no reason Tuesday to lift the warrant issued for him in London.

The Westminster Magistrates’ Court issued the warrant at issue in 2012 when Assange ignored a notice to surrender to London police for extradition to Sweden.

Assange was wanted in Sweden after two women there accused the Aussie computer programmer of sexual molestation and rape. Claiming that the Swedish government would promptly hand him over to the United States — which was conducting its own investigation of classified materials published by WikiLeaks — Assange absconded to the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he has been living in asylum for nearly six years.

After Sweden revoked a European arrest warrant for Assange last year, the WikiLeaks founder’s attorneys asked the Westminster court to withdraw its warrant as well.

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot declined to do so Tuesday.

“Many authorities underline the importance of a defendant attending court when bailed to do so and they describe the way that the administration of justice can be undermined by defendants who fail to attend,” Arbuthnot wrote.

The 5-page decision concludes simply: “I am not persuaded that the warrant should be withdrawn.”

Assange used Twitter today to provide running commentary of today’s hearing and to call out “fake news” by outlets he said got the facts wrong.

He also tweeted a statement by Jennifer Robinson, a member of his legal team.

“Mr. Assange remains ready to face British justice and to resolve any outstanding matters related to his seeking protection in the Ecuadorian embassy — but not at the risk of being forced to face American injustice for exercising the freedom to publish,” Robinson said.

Both U.S. and British officials have declined to comment on whether there is a warrant for Assange’s arrest, but Assange has said he suspects there is a secret U.S. indictment against him.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last April that it is a “priority” to arrest Assange for his role at WikiLeaks. Some of the documents WikiLeaks published were provided by U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was convicted in 2013 of violating the Espionage Act. Former President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence just before leaving office in January 2017.

Assange has been granted Ecuadorian citizenship and could ostensibly settle there, though the arrest warrant remains in place on U.K. soil outside the embassy. There have been reports from his doctors of health issues from his years of confinement inside.

Attorneys for Assange will try again on Feb. 13 to lift the arrest warrant on “public interest grounds.”

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