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UK judge upholds Assange's arrest warrant, rejects his bid to leave embassy

IANS/London 14 Feb 18 | 08:03 AM

Julian Assange, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks Photo: Reuters

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had his hopes of freedom dashed on Tuesday when a judge in London upheld a warrant for his arrest on a charge of skipping bail.

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The 46-year-old Australian has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 fearing arrest if he leaves the building, potentially paving the way for him to be extradited to the US, reports Xinhua news agency.

Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot delivered her ruling on Tuesday at Westminster magistrates court in London stating it is in the public interest to pursue him for failing to surrender to his bail.

"I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years," she was quoted as 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. He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour," added the judge.

Assange moved into the embassy originally to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was wanted for questioning over an allegation of a sexual assault which he has always denied.

The Metropolitan Police hold the warrant for his arrest if he steps outside the compound even though the Swedish authorities have now dropped their investigation against him.

Assange's barrister Mark Summers argued that arresting him was no longer proportionate or in the public interest, saying the years Assange has spent inside the embassy were adequate if the not severe punishment for his actions.

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