Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot rejected Julian Assange’s request to drop the UK’s arrest warrant, continuing the abusive, arbitrary detention of the publisher in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The arrest warrant is connected to Sweden’s 2012 investigation into Julian Assange and is upheld despite that investigation having been closed last year. Assange’s defence argued that because Sweden dropped its investigation and European arrest warrants have been withdrawn, the UK warrant “lost its purpose and its function.”
Even if the UK had dropped its warrant, however, Assange’s security would remain in jeopardy. If he left the embassy, the UK could extradite him to the US, which continues to threaten prosecution. Last year, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that WikiLeaks’ journalism “ends now,” calling the organization a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” The US has had a grand jury investigation into Assange and WikiLeaks ongoing since 2010. The UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has received a US extradition warrant.
Judge Arbuthnot ruled on just one argument of Assange’s defence. Assange’s lawyers have argued separately that the proceedings are not in the public interest. The judge will rule on that argument on 13 February, at 2pm.
Assange has been in the embassy for five and a half years. Two doctors recently examined Assange and determined that “his continued confinement is dangerous physically and mentally to him, and a clear infringement of his human right to healthcare.”
Last month, Ecuador announced that it had granted Assange Ecuadorian nationality. Courage Trustee Renata Avila said, “Ecuador’s decision … is a welcome step, but we’re still a long way from resolving this situation. In the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, we’ve seen the US rhetoric against First Amendment activity, and the threats of prosecution, reach new, dangerous heights.”
In February 2016, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Assange’s detention to be arbitrary, that he “has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty,” and that he was “entitled to his freedom of movement and to compensation.” The United Kingdom challenged the determination and continues to illegally detain him.