Julian Assange arrest warrant still stands, court rules

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

Julian Assange will continue to face arrest if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy after a judge ruled that the arrest warrant against the WikiLeaks founder was still valid.

Assange sought asylum in the embassy because he feared Swedish police would eventually extradite him to the U.S., where he could face decades in jail over WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of secret military documents in 2010.

An Australian who has been granted Ecuadorian citizenship, Mr Assange is wanted in Britain for breaching his bail conditions when he entered the embassy, instead of handing himself in to be sent to Sweden.

The outstanding arrest warrant dates back to 2012, when Mr Assange failed to answer bail associated with the Swedish investigation. She said he would be able to argue his case and "put an argument for reasonable cause" for breaching his bail conditions.

Lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder asked the court to withdraw the warrant, saying it had "lost its purpose", the BBC reported.

It added Assange was "in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy".

Swedish prosecutors had already dropped their investigation over sexual assault and rape allegations, which he denies.

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Mr Assange came to global prominence in 2010 when his website Wikileaks released tens of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents.

In December 2017, Ecuador granted naturalization (the legal process by which a non-citizen in a country may acquire its citizenship) to Assange.

In the past year, Assange has also been active in a campaign to support secessionists in the Catalonia region of Spain.

Assange's supporters say his health has deteriorated significantly during his years living in the embassy and the court has heard about Assange's depression, dental, and shoulder problems.

It is not publicly known whether there is a sealed US indictment against Assange.

"Failing to surrender to bail is like insulting the court's authority" and unlikely to go down well with the court, she said.

She said she would make that ruling on February 13, according to The Times.

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