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REFILE 1ST LEAD Assange bail warrant can still be enforced, British judge rules By Bill Smith, dpa

Europe
13.02.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
London (dpa) - A judge ruled on Tuesday that it remains in the public interest to enforce a British warrant against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for breach of bail conditions, meaning he is still liable to arrest if he leaves his refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot told Westminster Magistrates‘ Court she rejected Assange‘s lawyers‘ argument that it was no longer in the public interest to pursue Assange, after a Swedish extradition warrant for alleged sexual offences was withdrawn in May.

"I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years," Arbuthnot said.

Her ruling follows her decision last week that the British warrant remains valid.

It was issued in 2012 after Assange failed to appear in court in relation to the Swedish extradition warrant, because he had already entered the embassy.

Assange, 46, denied the Swedish allegations and claimed they were part of a conspiracy to extradite him to the United States to face unspecified charges related to WikiLeaks.

Arbuthnot ruled that Assange had not already been "punished" for breaching bail, after his lawyers argued that the time he had spent in the embassy since the the withdrawal of Swedish warrant was already longer than any prison term he would be expected to serve if convicted of breaching bail.

She also rejected the lawyers‘ arguments that Assange had been the victim of "arbitrary detention" by Britain.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a panel of independent legal scholars, ruled in 2016 that the Australian-Ecuadorian activist had been subject to arbitrary detention since his arrest in London in 2010 in connection with the Swedish allegations.

Arbuthnot noted that his lawyers said "Mr Assange fears being rendered to the United States by Sweden."

"There is no evidence that that was going to happen," she said. "He would not have been rendered by this country to the United States nor by Sweden."

Following the rulings, Assange accused Arbuthnot on Twitter of "just defending UK state actions."

Assange‘s lawyers have also accused British prosecutors of unlawful secrecy, and a separate court ruling is expected on that claim.

The lawyers also made submissions on Assange‘s health, which doctors say has deteriorated since he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012.

Assange has suggested that he would not leave the embassy, even if the arrest warrant were rescinded, without assurances that Britain would not attempt to extradite him to the United States.

"This case is, and has always been, about the risk of extradition to the United States and that risk remains real," Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer for Assange, said after last week‘s ruling.

 

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