26/01/2018 14:51 GMT

Julian Assange Arrest Warrant Judgment Due Next Month After Five-Year Embassy Standoff With Police

WikiLeaks founder has hidden from extradition and bail arrest warrant since 2012.

Julian Assange will learn next month if the warrant for his arrest will be dropped, after his five-year standoff with police.

A court heard the Wikileaks founder was suffering from depression, a frozen shoulder and painful toothache after hiding in Ecuador’s London embassy from rape allegations and arrest for skipping bail since 2012. 

His lawyer told Westminster Magistrates’ Court the arrest warrant for the bail issue should be dismissed, as Swedish prosecutors had dropped their investigations into sexual offences Assange allegedly committed in 2010. 

PA Archive/PA Images
Julian Assange seen speaking from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London

Mark Summers told the court that the bail arrest warrant had “lost its purpose and its function” when Sweden withdrew the European Arrest Warrant.

But Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyer Aaron Watkins told the court it would be “absurd” if a defendant was effectively rewarded for managing to evade proceedings for sufficiently long that they fell away.

Watkins said the case against Assange was “extremely simple” in that he had failed to surrender to custody in answer to bail, therefore the warrant still stood.

When asked if a successful ruling could enable Assange to walk free, a spokesman for the CPS said: “Hypothetically yes, that would be our interpretation.” 

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said she would hand down her judgment on 6 February and made clear that medical arguments would not be considered as Assange was arguing a legal point.

“I’m particularly conscious there are some medical issues referred to in your submission,” the judge said.

“I’m aware that he has depression, a frozen shoulder and a terrible tooth.”

Assange sought political asylum in the embassy in June 2012, after a failed legal battle to prevent his extradition to Sweden.

He had claimed Sweden would hand him over to the US to face prosecution over WikiLeaks’ publication of a large trove of classified military and diplomatic documents - one of the largest information leaks in US history.

British police have said the charge of skipping bail is a much less serious offence than rape, but Assange could still face up to a year in jail if convicted.

Ecuador this month awarded Assange citizenship hours after the British government refused a request for him to be given diplomatic status, which would have given Assange immunity from arrest should he try to leave the embassy.