A British court rejected WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s plea to have an arrest warrant against him quashed for the second time in a week on Tuesday, 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.
In 2012, British authorities had issued a warrant after the WikiLeaks founder skipped bail to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was facing allegations of rape and sexual assault dating back to 2010. However, Swedish authorities dropped the rape charges in May 2017. 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.
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.
England and Wales Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot upheld the arrest warrant and condemned Assange’s decision not to appear in the court.
“The impression I have...is that [Assange] is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice, whether the course of justice is in this jurisdiction or in Sweden,” Arbuthnot said in her ruling, according to NBC News. “He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour.”
The judge said other defendants across the country and persons facing extradition visit the court to face the consequences of their choices. Assange should also “have the courage to do so”, she added.
On January 11, Ecuador had 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.