Feb. 6 (UPI) — A British judge on Tuesday ruled the arrest warrant against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was still valid.
The ruling to uphold the arrest warrant will keep Assange’s legal status unchanged, so he could be arrested for leaving Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he has sought refuge and lived for more than five years.
Assange was granted political asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations. The investigation was dropped but Assange refused to leave, claiming fears of being extradited to the United States over a bail breach.
Last year, Swedish authorities dropped their investigation into Assange, saying there was no reasonable way to bring him in for questioning, but his arrest warrant in Britain remains outstanding. The chief prosecutor in the Swedish case said the move did not declare Assange innocent, only that he no longer faces any charges in that country.
In December, Assange was granted Ecuadorean citizenship after applying for it months earlier. Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuador’s foreign minister, said Assange would not leave the embassy without security guarantees because he has received threats on his life. She said the Ecuadorean government is seeking a “dignified and just” solution in his case with the British government.
An attorney for Assange told a district judge since the Swedish case had been dropped, the warrant had “lost its purpose and its function.”
The attorney added that staying in the embassy for so many years where Assange has no access to adequate medical care or sunlight has caused his physical and psychological health to deteriorate.