A British court on Tuesday rejected WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s plea to have a warrant for his arrest quashed, Reuters reported. Assange has been staying at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the last five years to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape.
Swedish authorities dropped the rape charges in May 2017. However, the British police could arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy, for breaching his bail conditions when he sought refuge there, Reuters said.
The WikiLeaks founder fears that Sweden would extradite him to the United States, where he faces prosecution for WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked US military and diplomatic documents.
Assange’s lawyers had argued before the court that since the Swedish case had been dropped, there was no longer any justification for the warrant against him. However, England and Wales Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot disagreed. “I am not persuaded that the warrant should be withdrawn,” Arbuthnot said at the Westminster Magistrates Court.
Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers then asked the judge if it would be in public interest to continue pursuing his client for breach of bail conditions. But Arbuthnot said such issues could be considered only if Assange were to be brought to court to explain his failure to surrender to bail.
On January 11, Ecuador announced that it granted citizenship to Assange. The Ecuadorian foreign ministry said it was concerned about potential threats to Assange’s life from unspecified nations. The previous day, the United Kingdom Foreign Office said it had turned down a request from the Ecuadorian government to grant Assange diplomatic status.