Wednesday, 14 February 2018 06:05

Assange fails in bid to get arrest warrant dropped Featured

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A British court has refused to withdraw an arrest warrant against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange for not showing up for a bail hearing on 29 June 2012, meaning he will have to continue residing in the Ecuadorian embassy in London or risk arrest by leaving.

Senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot handed down the judgement at Westminster magistrates court in London on Tuesday, saying the arguments advance by Assange's legal team had failed to persuade her that the public interest was not served by going after him for skipping bail.

There were indications last week that Assange would not be successful with the appeal, as the court indicated that it was not going to lift the arrest warrant.

The Guardian  quoted Arbuthnot as saying: “I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.

“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. It is certainly not against the public interest to proceed.”

Assange's lawyer Mark Summers QC argued on Tuesday that taking him into custody was no longer proportionate or in the public interest.

He said the years Assange had spent inside the embassy were “adequate, if not severe” punishment for what he had done.

Summers also cited a report by a UN committee that said Assange was being arbitrarily detained.

WikiLeaks said in a statement after the case concluded: "The ruling is consistent with UK behaviour in this highly politicised case, as the court refused to recognise both Assange’s precarious health situation and the strong and binding ruling from the UN, declaring his confinement arbitrary, maintaining the UK’s silence on the imminent threat of a US prosecution linked to his journalistic activities."

Assange has been in the embassy for more than five years. His problems began when he visited Sweden in August 2010 to attend a conference to give a talk. While there, he had sex with two women whom he met and the pair later filed rape and molestation complaints against him, claims that he denied.

He was questioned by Swedish authorities and cleared. He could have left the country then and there but stayed for a while, in case the authorities decided to question him again.

Interpol issued a Red Notice for his arrest on 20 November 2010. On 27 November, Assange surrendered to authorities and appeared before a Westminster judge. Bail was granted to him in December after his backers provided £240,000 in cash and sureties.

Then began a protracted period of legal back and forth that went on until June 2012, when Swedish prosecutors sought his extradition.

Assange's lawyers, among them the world-renowned Australian Geoffrey Robertson, replied that if he agreed to the extradition request, he could be flown to the US from there.

On 19 June 2012, he jumped bail and took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, seeking asylum in the South American country. British police surrounded the building and blocked any chance of his leaving.

Ecuador granted him asylum in August 2012. He has had to stay inside the four walls of the embassy since then. He was recently granted Ecuadorian citizenship.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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