Guardian News and Media/London
Julian Assange will continue to face detention if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy in London after a judge upheld a warrant for his arrest.
Handing down her judgment before a packed courtroom at Westminster magistrates court, senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot said she was not persuaded by the argument from Assange’s legal team that it was not in the public interest to pursue him for skipping bail.
She said: “I find arrest is a proportionate response even though 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, 46, skipped bail to enter the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he denies.
Though Swedish prosecutors dropped the investigation against him, he faces arrest if he leaves the building in Knightsbridge, London, for breaching his former bail conditions in the UK.
Lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder had asked for the warrant to be withdrawn since Sweden no longer wants him extradited, but the judge rejected their request last week. Representing Assange, Mark Summers QC went on to argue that arresting him was no longer proportionate or in the public interest.
Summers said that the years Assange has spent inside the embassy were “adequate, if not severe” punishment for his actions, and cited a report by a UN committee which said the Australian national was being arbitrarily detained.
Summers also argued Assange was justified in seeking refuge in the embassy because he had a legitimate fear that US authorities were seeking to arrest him for WikiLeaks’ publication of secret documents.
He said Assange had made attempts to co-operate with the investigation in Sweden but had been refused, and that e-mails uncovered by a freedom of information request showed the Swedish prosecutor had been advised by a case lawyer at the CPS that Assange should be interviewed in Sweden.
“It (the correspondence) records that the CPS had already advised that it would not be prudent for Sweden to try to interview Assange in the UK,” he said.
In October 2013, Summers added, Sweden advised the CPS lawyer that it was time to withdraw the European arrest warrant on the grounds of proportionality, but it was four years before it eventually was.
“Obviously these e-mails are of interest to the court,” Arbuthnot said last week.
Assange also suspects there is a secret US grand jury indictment against him and American authorities will seek his extradition.
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