Julian Assange arrest warrant still valid, court rules

The WikiLeaks founder still faces arrest if he leaves his London-based Ecuadorian Embassy

A UK arrest warrant for Julian Assange is still valid, Westminster Magistrates' Court has ruled, and he will continue to face arrest if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy.

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

The defence papers stated: “He [Assange] has spent five and a half years in conditions which, on any view, are akin to imprisonment, without access to adequate medical care or sunlight, in circumstances where his physical and psychological health have deteriorated and are in serious peril.”

Arbuthnot said evidence handed to the court concerning Assange’s medical problems included “a terrible bad tooth, frozen shoulder and depression”.

Assange, 46, skipped bail to enter the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he denies.

Although 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.

In her ruling, senior district judge and chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said having considered the arguments, she was "not persuaded that the warrant should be withdrawn".

She said that not surrendering to bail was a standalone offence under the Bail Act and Mr Assange must explain why he failed to do so.

WikiLeaks said on Tuesday that Assange could face life in prison in the US for a variety of charges including espionage, conspiracy and theft.

The group said US grand jury proceedings against Assange began as early as 2010, but it is not publicly known if he faces a US indictment because of the strict secrecy rules governing US grand jury actions.

Ecuador recently granted him citizenship and asylum in an attempt to resolve the political impasse over his continued presence in the UK.

The UK government however refused to grant him diplomatic status status and called on him to leave the embassy to "face justice".

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