WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Britain, February 5, 2016. © Reuters
A Swedish court has sustained a European arrest warrant for the founder of whistleblower website WikiLeaks over a rape allegation dating back to 2010.
In a statement released on Wednesday, a Stockholm district court rejected an appeal by lawyers representing Julian Assange to turn down the warrant, saying the Australian “is still suspected of rape… and that there is still a risk that he will abscond or evade justice.”
The lawyers had requested the lifting of the arrest warrant after the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled in early February that Assange should be allowed to walk free.
The WikiLeaks founder’s confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy amounted to arbitrary detention by Sweden
and Britain, according to the UN panel’s non-binding legal opinion.
However, the Stockholm district court said that it disagrees with the UN panel finding.
“The court finds, contrary to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, that Julian Assange’s stay at Ecuador’s embassy in London should not be considered a detention,” the court statement read.
Per Samuelsson, one of Assange’s Swedish lawyers, said that his client will appeal Wednesday’s ruling.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (R) addresses the media from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London on February 5, 2016. © AFP
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian diplomatic mission in London since June 2012. He secured political asylum from Quito after he lost a legal battle against extradition to Sweden.
Swedish prosecutors issued a European arrest warrant for Assange after allegations of sexual assault
related to a 2010 visit he made to Stockholm to give a lecture.
However, the 44-year-old denies the accusations, describing them as a ploy to send him to the US, where he is wanted over the release of thousands of US classified documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on his whistleblower website.