WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asks UK court to scrap arrest warrant | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.01.2018
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asks UK court to scrap arrest warrant

Assange's lawyers argue that the warrant serves no purpose now that he is no longer wanted for questioning in Sweden over alleged sexual assault. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday asked a UK court to drop an arrest warrant against him, as he bids to move out of the Ecuadorean Embassy after more than five years.

London judge Emma Arbuthnot said she would make her ruling on the arrest warrant on February 6.

Assange has been living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London's wealthy Knightsbridge district since 2012, when he skipped bail to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he denied. 

Read more: Julian Assange: Five years without sunlight 

Assange argued that Sweden would eventually extradite him to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks' publication of leaked classified military and diplomatic documents.

Assange's lawyers told the Westminster Magistrate's Court on Friday that the arrest warrant against their client could no longer apply after Swedish prosecutors' decision in May last year to drop their probe into allegations of sexual misconduct and withdraw their European Arrest Warrant.

"We say it's lost its purpose and its function," said Mark Summers, Assange's lawyer, of the outstanding warrant.

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Arrest for jumping bail?

British prosecutors are opposing the dropping of the arrest warrant. They argue that Assange shouldn't be immune from the law simply because he has managed to evade justice for years.

Assange still faces arrest for skipping bail if he leaves the embassy. British police say the charge of skipping bail is a much less serious offense than rape, but he could still face a one-year prison sentence if convicted. British police spent millions over several years monitoring the Ecuadorean Embassy around the clock in the hope of arresting Assange.

Earlier this month, Ecuador said it had granted the Australian-born Assange citizenship. It also asked Britain to grant him diplomatic status, a request which was turned down by the British authorities. Assange, like WikiLeaks, has remained politically active from what he calls his "detention without charge."

ap/msh (Reuters, AP)

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