WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lost his bid to have a UK court dismiss the arrest warrant that he’s been avoiding for 5 1/2 years by hiding in Ecuador’s embassy in London, with the London judge saying he lacked courage.
It’s the second time this month a UK judge has refused to overturn the arrest warrant issued for the Australian after he failed to appear at court for a Swedish sexual assault probe in 2012.
“He’s a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice,” Judge Emma Arbuthnot said, adding that he lacked courage and “only supports the law when it’s going his way.
“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 so too,” she said.
Arbuthnot was not persuaded by arguments by Assange’s lawyers that it was no longer in the public interest to arrest him for jumping bail in 2012 and seeking shelter in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors were investigating allegations of sexual assault and rape made by two women. He denied the allegations.
Arbuthnot said on Tuesday she finds “arrest is a proportionate response” to Assange’s actions.
A lawyer for Assange is citing a report by a United Nations committee to argue that the British arrest warrant should be thrown out.
Lawyer Mark Summers said the UN committee’s report concluded that Assange was being arbitrarily detained, adding that the 5-½ years Assange has spent inside Ecuador’s London embassy are “adequate, if not severe” punishment for his actions.
Even if the judge lifts the British arrest warrant, Assange’s legal problems may not be over. He suspects there is a secret US grand jury indictment against him for WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents, and that American authorities will seek his extradition.
Swedish prosecutors dropped the investigation last year, but the British warrant for violating bail conditions still stands.
Assange’s lawyers asked for the warrant to be withdrawn since Sweden no longer wants him extradited, but the judge rejected their request last week.
Assange has not left the embassy since he first walked in nearly six years ago and his lawyers had argued in a court hearing last week that it was no longer in the interests of justice for British authorities to seek to arrest and prosecute him for skipping bail.
“Not looking good,” Assange’s twitter feed said before the final verdict. “So far, judge is just defending UK state actions.”
He and WikiLeaks have become famous over the past decade for disclosing confidential documents about the US government and politics. The website injected itself into the middle of the last US presidential race by publishing hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.