Swedish court upholds arrest warrant for Julian Assange

A Swedish appeals court Friday dismissed a request by lawyers for Julian Assange to have prosecutors drop a rape investigation from 2010. The WikiLeaks founder has avoided extradition to Sweden by seeking shelter in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012. 

Frank Augstein/AP/File
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a UN report as he speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in February 2016. A Swedish appeals court on Friday upheld a detention order for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, dismissing the latest attempt by the 45-year-old Australian to make prosecutors drop a rape investigation from 2010.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is set to be questioned in relation to rape allegations on October 17 at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The news comes as a Swedish appeals court on Friday decided to uphold an arrest warrant for the Australian computer programmer, denying his latest attempt to make prosecutors drop a rape investigation from 2010.

"After reviewing the existing investigative material and what the parties have stated, the Court of Appeal finds that Julian Assange is still suspected on probable cause of rape," the ruling issued by a three-judge panel in Stockholm on Friday said, according to NBC News. "The Court of Appeal also shares the assessment of the District Court that there is still a risk that Julian Assange will flee."

Mr. Assange denies the allegations against him and has tried many attempts to challenge the arrest warrant. He has been living at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors issued an arrest warrant in 2010 based on allegations of sexual assault and rape by two female volunteers from WikiLeaks.

Assange says he’s afraid that if he's extradited to Sweden, he could be more easily extradited to the United States to face espionage charges, with a potential death penalty, for publishing massive amounts of classified government information on WikiLeaks in 2010.

His Swedish attorney, Per Samuelson, said Assange would likely appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

"We are naturally disappointed that Swedish courts yet again choose to ignore Julian Assange's difficult life situation," Mr. Samuelson told the Associated Press.

An Ecuadorean prosecutor will question Assange next month on behalf of Swedish investigators.

The allegations against him date back to Assange's visit to Sweden six years ago, when he met the two women volunteers. One set of allegations, for sexual molestation and unlawful coercion, were dropped last year because the statute of limitations expired. The rape allegation made by one of the women will expire in 2020 if Assange is not indicted by then.

The Swedish appeals court said the standstill in the case and the delay of Swedish prosecutors in investigating are good reasons to throw out the arrest warrant. But the court added that there is a strong public interest reason for keeping it in place.

"At present, continued detention therefore appears to be both effective and necessary so as to be able to move the investigation forward," the court said.

This report includes material from Reuters and the Associated Press. 

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