Assange to ask London court to drop UK arrest warrant
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s lawyers will ask a London court on Friday to drop the arrest warrant that stems from his breach of bail conditions, as he steps up efforts to leave the Ecuadorean embassy after five and a half years, Reuters reports.
Assange, 46, has been holed up in the red brick building since 2012 after skipping bail to avoid extradition to Sweden over an allegation of rape, which he denies.
Assange had feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks’ publication of swathes of classified military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.
The hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court is the latest push by Assange to find a way to leave the building without arrest.
“He is seeking to have the warrant of arrest discontinued because the Swedes have confirmed that the extradition warrant is no longer live,” a spokesman for Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said.
“He is seeking that therefore the warrant of arrest should be taken out as well.” Asked if a successful ruling could enable Assange to walk free, the spokesman replied: “hypothetically yes, that would be our interpretation.”
For some a cyber hero who exposed government abuses of power, Assange is to others a criminal who undermined the security of the West by exposing secrets.
In May last year Swedish prosecutors dropped their probe into the allegations but British police have insisted Assange would still be arrested for breaching bail conditions should he leave the building.
British police have said the charge of skipping bail was a much less serious offence than rape, but he could still face up to a year in jail if convicted.
Earlier this month, Ecuador said it had given citizenship to Assange, hours after the British government refused a request for him to be given diplomatic status, which could have given Assange immunity from arrest should he try to leave the embassy.