Julian Assange urged to ‘show the courage’ to appear in court
The WikiLeaks’ founder’s legal team had argued it was no longer in the public interest to pursue him for failing to answer bail at a police station.
A judge has challenged Julian Assange to show the “courage” to appear in court as she ruled his arrest warrant was in the public interest.
Handing down her strongly-worded judgment before a packed courtroom at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot said she was under the impression the WikiLeaks founder wanted justice “on his terms”.
His legal team had argued it was no longer in the public interest to pursue him for failing to answer bail at a police station as he fought extradition to Sweden in 2012.
But 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.”
Not looking good. So far, judge is just defending UK state actions.— Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) February 13, 2018
Mr Assange claimed his case had exposed “improper conduct” by the Crown Prosecution Service, including emails his legal team claimed showed a CPS lawyer apparently persuading the Swedish prosecutor not to drop the case.
He has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than five years, fearing extradition to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks if he leaves.
But on Tuesday, Judge Arbuthnot dismissed every argument put forward by his legal team on his behalf and in his absence.
She 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.”
He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour. Emma Arbuthnot, Senior District Judge
Mr Assange tweeted that the “judge is just defending UK state actions”, while his solicitor, Gareth Peirce, 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.”
Mr Assange has accused the UK of a “cover-up” to keep him detained, and his lawyer Jennifer Robinson previously said the Government had refused to confirm or deny whether there is an extradition request from the US.
Judge Arbuthnot last week rejected his legal team’s argument that the warrant was no longer valid because an investigation by the Swedish authorities into a sex-related allegation had been dropped.
The judge, in her latest ruling, also commented on Mr Assange’s health, which his lawyers argued had deteriorated during his time in the embassy.
But she said: “I do not accept there is not sunlight, there have been a number of photographs of him on a balcony connected to the premises he inhabits.
“Mr Assange’s health problems could be much worse.”
He responded directly to the claim, tweeting: “Pulling security to get me safely on the balcony six times in six years for a few minutes turns into this…”
The judge added she weighed up the costs of police resources, the losses incurred by Mr Assange’s supporters in posting previous bail costs, known as sureties, and the public confidence in the justice system in making her decision.
And she dismissed as “quite wrong” the findings of the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that Mr Assange had been forced into confinement and denied access to justice.
On Twitter Mr Assange said: “We are surprised. The judge went outside what the parties presented in court. This seems to have led to the significant factual errors in the judgment. There are three months to appeal UK ruling.”
The spokesman said the US Justice Department had confirmed on Monday that its case was ongoing.