Julian Assange 'Thinks He Is Above The Law', Judge Says As She Rules Arrest Warrant Should Stand

He 'wants justice only if it goes in his favour,' judge says.

Julian Assange has been accused of thinking he is “above the normal rules of law” by a judge who ruled his arrest warrant should stand.

The Wikileaks founder lost his second bid in as many weeks to quash the warrant for skipping bail on Tuesday, with the judge saying he should “have the courage” to surrender himself to police after hiding in London’s Ecuadorian embassy since June 2012.

Had he won, Assange could have walked free, without fear of arrest.

Assange’s lawyers argued it was not in British interests to pursue Assange for the bail charge when Swedish prosecutors had dropped their investigation into sexual offences the bail related to.

Julian Assange has lost his second attempt to have a warrant for skipping bail thrown out
Julian Assange has lost his second attempt to have a warrant for skipping bail thrown out
PA Archive/PA Images

Assange said he feared extradition to Sweden would mean he was taken to America to face prosecution over Wikileaks’ leaking of diplomatic cables and war logs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

But on Tuesday, Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled the arrest warrant should stand, dismissing all five points Assange’s lawyers raised and finding it is in the public interest to pursue him for failing to surrender.

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said: “The impression I have, and this may well be dispelled if and when Mr Assange finally appears in court, is that he is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice, whether the course of justice is in this jurisdiction or in Sweden.

“He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour.

“As long as the court process is going his way, he is willing to be bailed conditionally but as soon as the Supreme Court rules against him, he no longer wants to participate on the court’s terms but on his terms.”

Julian Assange supporters outside Westminster Magistrates' Court last week
Julian Assange supporters outside Westminster Magistrates' Court last week
PA Wire/PA Images

She continued: “I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.

“Defendants on bail up and down the country, and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices.

“He should have the courage to do the same. It is certainly not against the public interest to proceed.”

She said Assange’s fears of extradition to the US were not reasonable and said such a thing happened, “there would have been a diplomatic crisis between the United Kingdom, Sweden and the United States”.

Assange tweeted “not looking good” as he followed proceedings on Twitter.

Gareth Peirce, one of Assange’s legal team, said it would be possible to appeal against the decision.

Speaking outside the court, she said: “Whether it is pursued is another question.

“The history of the case from start to finish is extraordinary. Each aspect of it becomes puzzling and troubling as it is scrutinised.”

Last Tuesday, the chief magistrate ruled the warrant should stand, saying legal precedents “underline the importance of a defendant attending court when bail to do so”.

She added it was “not uncommon” for people to be pursued for bail offences after the proceedings the bail related to were discontinued.

Assange’s time in the embassy has been marked by regular appearances at the balcony to address crowds of supporters, who have gathered at various stages of his legal battle.

Assange tweeted he was “surprised” by the ruling, claimed the threat of extradition to the US was real and hinted he would appeal.

For three years, the Metropolitan Police maintained a permanent guard outside the embassy in case he left, but stopped this in 2015, citing the cost.

In 2016, a UN panel called on Swedish and British authorities to end Assange’s “deprivation of liberty”.

The Foreign Office condemned this, saying it “completely rejects any claim that Julian Assange is a victim of arbitrary detention”.

It added Assange was “in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy”.

Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny withdrew the extradition request in May last year because Assange’s refusal to come to Sweden meant “all possibilities to advance the investigation have now been exhausted”.

Julian Assange: How he ended up at the Ecuadorian embassy

Assange was accused of rape and molestation by two women, who were unnamed WikiLeaks supporters, after a trip to Sweden in August 2010. Swedish prosecutors issued a warrant for his arrest in November, after he had left the country.

In December, Assange was arrested in London and bailed. He spent the next 18 months fighting extradition through the courts.

In May 2012, he suffered his final defeat when the Supreme Court ruled he should be extradited. Three weeks later, he stunned the world when he walked into the embassy seeking asylum.

This was granted in August but he still faced arrest if he left the embassy.

In August 2015, the charges of molestation and unlawful coercion were discontinued as they were subject to five-year statutes of limitations under Swedish law.

Assange still faced the more serious allegation of rape, which is subject to a 10-year limit.

But in May 2017, Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny announced she was discontinuing this case as well.

“All possibilities to conduct the investigation are exhausted,” she said. “In order to proceed with the case, Julian Assange would have to be formally notified of the criminal suspicions against him.

“We cannot expect to receive assistance from Ecuador regarding this. Therefore the investigation is discontinued.”

Assange said he feared being sent to Sweden would mean a further extradition to the US to face charges over WikiLeaks’ leaking of military and diplomatic cables.


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