Swedish court upholds arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Assange
WikiLeaks founder wanted in Sweden over sex assault allegations
Reuters in Stockholm
A Swedish court upheld yesterday an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who has spent two years at Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault.
Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange over the allegations made by two female former WikiLeaks volunteers.
Assange denies the allegations and has been fighting a legal battle against extradition since his arrest in Britain in December 2010.
Assange says he fears Sweden could in turn extradite him to the US to be tried for one of the largest leaks of classified information in US history.
"All in all, the district court makes the assessment that the reasons for the arrest warrant offset the infringement and adverse effects the measure entails for Julian Assange," District court judge Lena Egelin said. "He should therefore continue to be wanted for arrest in his absence."
Assange's lawyers argued the arrest warrant should be repealed because it cannot be enforced while Assange is in the embassy and the Swedish prosecutor had not considered the possibility of interrogating him in London.
"(It must) arrange a questioning of Assange in London and then move the investigation forward, so we can finally come to a conclusion," said defence lawyer Per Samuelson. Another of Assange's lawayers, Thomas Olsson, said he would appeal the verdict.
Ecuador, which has granted Assange political asylum, wants London to assure him safe passage to Quito.
But Britain has surrounded the Ecuadorian embassy with police officers round the clock ready to detain him if he leaves it.
British police say they have spent £6 million (HK$80m) from June 2012 until March this year on policing costs at the Ecuadorian embassy.
In an interview last year, Assange said he would not leave the sanctuary of the embassy in London even if Sweden stops pursuing sexual assault claims against him because he feared arrest on the order of the United States.