London: In a huge setback to Julian Assange, a British court for the second time ruled that an arrest warrant against the Wikileaks founder was still valid, making it clear that he could be arrested if he tries to leave the Ecuadorian embassy where he has been holed up since 2012.
Senior District judge Emma Arbuthnot, handing down her judgment before a packed courtroom at Westminster magistrates court, said that she was not persuaded by the argument from Assange's legal team that it was not in the public interest to pursue him for skipping bail.
"I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years," judge Arbuthnot said.
The judge said: "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".
Assange, 46, skipped bail to enter the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he denies.
Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, the judge who is currently also presiding over the extradition trial of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, the next hearing date for which is expected in mid-March, had reserved her judgment in the Assange case last month.
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Updated Date: Feb 13, 2018 22:29:35 IST