An arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will not be dropped, a British judge has ruled. Assange has not ruled out appealing the decision.
On the decision, Assange tweeted his statement on the ruling, bemoaning that the “Judge went well outside what the parties presented in court. This seems to have led to many factual errors in the judgment,” before suggesting that he might appeal the decision.
Statement on ruling: We are surprised. Judge went well outside what the parties presented in court. This seems to have led to many factual errors in the judgment. US DoJ confirmed to Reuters again yesterday that its case is ongoing. There are 3 months to appeal judge’s decision.
— Julian Assange ⌛ (@JulianAssange) February 13, 2018
Assange has spent more than five and a half years living in a single room inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He took refuge in the building in a bid to avoid extradition to the US over his role in publishing leaked diplomatic and military records.
The Wikileaks founder was wanted in Sweden for a rape investigation when he sought protection in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012. Swedish prosecutors dropped the investigation last year, but the British warrant for violating bail conditions still stood.
Judge Emma Arbuthnot struck down all five points put forward by his lawyers, stating she doesn’t think Assange’s fears he would have been extradited from Sweden to the US are “reasonable.”
She added that the UN working group on arbitrary detention was “quite wrong” regarding his conditions. “There is a distinction between living in Wandsworth prison and in the Embassy,” the judge said.
“I do not consider 550 days on bail a deprivation, it was his own choice to live in the Embassy. He can leave whenever he wishes, has endless visitors, chooses his food, can sit on the balcony to have air, he is not locked in.”
“Restrictions on his freedom are lawful and proportionate, and cannot be criticized,” the judge added.
The judge said Assange’s health problems “could have been a lot worse.” Assange responded by tweeting: “Pulling security to get me safely on the balcony turns to this.”
Arbuthnot added: “[Assange] feel like he is above the law. His failure to surrender has impacted the course of justice. He should have the courage to come to court.”
While there is a process available for an appeal, it is currently unclear whether or not Assange and his legal team will take it.
Gareth Peirce confirmed there is a route for appeal but couldn’t say whether they would be taking it.
— Courage Foundation (@couragefound) February 13, 2018
Last week, Arbuthnot said she was “not persuaded” the remaining arrest warrant for Assange should be dropped.
Assange’s lawyers said five and a half years in the embassy has been punishment enough.
Critics say Assange’s detention is self-imposed and that he should have long faced trial. He believes that if he hadn’t fled the authorities, he would have been extradited to the US to face an unfair trial for his work, which he believes is essentially not different from investigative journalism. He fears there may be a sealed arrest warrant for him in the US and that if he is arrested in Britain, it would be unsealed and used to hand him over to the American authorities.
In December, Assange received Ecuadorian citizenship, but the UK indicated it would not recognize his diplomatic status if requested by the Latin American nation. Having diplomatic immunity would allow the fugitive to safely leave British soil.
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