British judge upholds arrest warrant for Julian Assange

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GETTYWikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has been in the embassy for the past five-and-a-half years

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange received another visit from actress Pamela Anderson, a day after launching a legal fight against a United Kingdom arrest warrant.

A decision in his favour would allow him to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London, his "home" for the last five years.

Assange was granted political asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations.

Swedish prosecutors dropped the case previous year, but Assange was still subject to a British arrest warrant for jumping bail in 2012.

He has said he feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over Wikileaks' publication of leaked USA military and diplomatic documents.

This latest legal setback impedes him from leaving the embassy without being arrested on the British warrant.

Swedish prosecutors dropped the case past year, saying there was no prospect of bringing Assange to Sweden in the foreseeable future.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot said the warrant stands, rejecting a call from Assange's lawyers for the warrant to be revoked because he is no longer wanted for questioning in Sweden.

Although there have been reports of Assange's physical and mental health deteriorating during his years in the embassy, Arbuthnot didn't have any of it.

The initial ruling at Westminster Magistrates' Court is a "blow to his fresh bid for freedom", The Daily Telegraph says.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot said she would give her decision on February 13.

Assange's lawyer Mark Summers then launched a separate argument that even if his client were arrested and brought to court, it would not be in the interests of justice to take any further action.

That ruling will be made on 13 February.

He said Assange had had "reasonable grounds" for fleeing to the embassy in 2012 because of his fear that he would ultimately be extradited to the United States.

He told the court that Assange had health problems, including depression, and that his years inside the embassy were more than adequate punishment for his bail offence.

If the British case against Assange is dropped, it might make it easier for Assange to obtain diplomatic status, which could ease his way for possible travel to Ecuador without risking arrest and extradition proceedings.

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