United Kingdom judge upholds arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder

Assange to find out today if he can leave Ecuador’s embassy

Not yet uhuru for WikiLeaks founder Assange as UK court upholds his warrant of arrest

A British judge upheld an arrest warrant for Julian Assange for the second time in a week on Tuesday, a significant setback for him after 5½ years of evading authorities by living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

Assange was granted political asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations.

Newly discovered emails reveal that Swedish prosecutors were eager to drop the case against Assange in 2013, four years before they would officially drop the charges against him.

Assange says he fears his arrest could lead to his extradition to the United States over WikiLeaks' publication of secret US military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010.US Attorney General Jeff Sessions previous year said his arrest was a "priority".

Arbuthnot did not mince words in her ruling at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court, saying that by jumping bail Assange had made "a determined attempt to avoid the order of the court".

"He is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice", Arbuthnot said.

In a stinging attack on Mr Assange, she said he appeared to "consider himself above the normal rules of law".

But Judge Arbuthnot said that should the United States seek Assange's extradition, he would be able to challenge that in the courts by raising issues such as whether he could get a fair trial and whether US prison conditions were acceptable.

To date it is clear only a small fraction of the Assange case file, which the CPS has admitted comprises "mainly 55 lever-arch files, one A4 file and a selection of other paper files", has been published.

The Metropolitan Police hold the warrant for his arrest if he steps outside the compound even though the Swedish authorities have now dropped their investigation against him.

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Assange has been in the embassy for more than five years.

During his successful election campaign, U.S. President Donald Trump praised Assange's organisation for releasing hacked emails from Democratic National Committee (DNC) computers, telling a rally in October 2016 "I love WikiLeaks".

If the judge had nullified the warrant, Assange might have left the embassy, but that was far from certain. Marianne Ny, the chief prosecutor in Sweden, stressed that she was not declaring Assange innocent, only that he no longer faces any charges in the country. Instead, as Assange has long warned, there is a very different agenda at work: efforts to extradite him onwards to the United States, where he could be locked away for good.

Lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder had asked for the warrant to be withdrawn as Sweden no longer wants to extradite him.

The UK FCO refuses to confirm or deny whether there is an extradition request for Mr. Assange.

And she said if the USA had asked for his extradition he could have appealed that through the British court system.

"I do not accept that Sweden would have rendered Mr Assange to the United States", she said.

In January, days after announcing it is seeking a mediator to resolve the standoff with Britain, Ecuador says it has granted Assange citizenship.

They said he had no sunlight and was suffering from depression, respiratory infections, dental problems and a frozen shoulder for which he could not get treatment.

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