United Kingdom court keeps Assange arrest warrant in place

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Julian Assange goes out to the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in 2016.

Last month Mark Summers QC, representing Assange, told the senior district judge, Emma Arbuthnot, that since the Swedish case had been dropped the warrant had "lost its objective and its function".

In London, a judge ruled today to uphold the British arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than five years.

"I'm not persuaded that the warrant should be withdrawn", judge Emma Arbuthnot said in criminal court in London, reading out her decision.

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Swedish authorities previous year dropped the charges against him because of the passage of time.

But Arbuthnot was still considering a further application from Assange's lawyers that the arrest warrant be scrapped on public interest grounds.

It's not entirely clear what Assange will do if the judge rules in his favor.

Months later Swedish authorities sought to question him about an allegation of rape which he denied. Assange had stayed at the embassy, fearing that extradition to Sweden could lead to an extradition by the U.S.

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However, Assange suspects there is a secret USA indictment against him for WikiLeaks' publication of leaked classified American documents, and that the US authorities will seek his extradition.

Mr Assange believes he will be extradited to the United States if he leaves the embassy, for questioning about the activities of WikiLeaks. British officials would be expected to take Assange into custody if there's a US indictment and extradition request.

But one attractive option might be to settle in Ecuador, which has granted him citizenship and asylum.

The Swedish case has since been dropped but in the eyes of the British authorities Assange remains in breach of his bail conditions. His lawyers say he is suffering from a variety of mental and physical problems stemming from his long spell inside the building, but there would be no obvious end in sight.

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