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Setback for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Swedish court upholds arrest warrant in 2010 rape case

A WikiLeaks supporter in her 30s had accused Assange of rape in 2010. It could lead up to four years in prison for Assange. Photograph: (AFP)

WION Stockholm, Sweden Sep 16, 2016, 11.31 AM (IST)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faced another setback in his legal stand-off with Sweden on Friday.  

A Swedish appeals court rejected his request to lift an arrest warrant against Assange over a 2010 rape accusation.

The Stockholm appeals court upheld the earlier ruling by a district court to issue arrest warrant for Assange. 

The statement read, "Assange is still detained in absentia. The court shares the assessment of the (lower) district court that Julian Assange is still suspected on probable cause of rape... and that there is a risk that he will evade legal proceedings or a penalty."

The court said Assange's four-year embassy sequestration and the earlier passivity of police investigators were the basis for setting aside the detention. 

The court observed Assange's embassy stay "is not a deprivation of liberty and shall not be given any importance in its own right in the assessment of proportionality."

It also rejected Assange's request to hold a hearing over the matter. 

"However, the relatively serious offence of which he is suspected means that there is a strong public interest (in) the investigation being able to continue," the court noted.

"At present, continued detention therefore appears to be both effective and necessary so as to be able to move the investigation forward. The reasons for detention therefore still outweigh the intrusion or other detriment that the measure entails for Julian Assange."

Assange has evaded travel to Stockholm for questioning over the rape allegation, for fear that Sweden will extradite him to the United States over the release of 500,000 secret US military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since June 2012.

His lawyers have urged Sweden to follow the non-binding ruling of a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. It said Assange's confinement in the embassy amounted to arbitrary detention by Sweden and Britain.

According to British police, even if Assange's warrant was lifted, he is still liable to arrest in London for having evaded justice after his appeals against extradition were rejected. 

(WION with inputs from agencies)

 
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