Assange™ slumps back on Ecuador's sofa after detention appeal binned

Swedish court rules there's 'great risk' WikiLeaker will dodge prosecution

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Ensconced WikiLeaker Julian Assange doesn't look to be leaving his hideout in Ecuador's London embassy anytime soon – a Swedish appeals court has rejected his request to set aside the detention order filed against him in that country.

Assange's lawyers had argued that the order should be vacated because there is no way to enforce it as long as Ecuador grants Assange asylum in its embassy.

But the court disagreed with this view on Thursday, saying that "there is a great risk" that Assange will evade prosecution for the charges against him and that the arguments for the detention order still outweigh those against it.

"There is no reason to set aside the detention solely because Julian Assange is in an embassy and the detention order cannot be enforced," the court said in a statement. "The Court of Appeal considers that Julian Assange's stay at the embassy shall not count in his favour since he can himself choose to bring his stay there to an end."

Houseguest-from-Hell Assange has been crashing on Ecuador's couch for nearly two and a half years now, having dodged London police to take refuge in the embassy in June 2012.

Assange is being sought for extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual assault and rape, although he has yet to be formally charged with any crime.

Assange himself denies the allegations, claiming that the real reason he is being pursued is because he is also wanted by the US government for his role in leaking classified documents, including those supplied by imprisoned former soldier Chelsea Manning.

"This is about the threat of extradition to the US and 35 years of jail there," Per Samuelson, Assange's Swedish lawyer, told Reuters on Thursday. "As long as that threat remains, there is no doubt he will stay at the embassy."

The appeals court, meanwhile, also had strong words for the prosecutors in Assange's case. Noting that the investigation into the allegations against Assange "has come to a halt," the court told prosecutors that they are obliged to "examine alternative avenues" for questioning him.

"The fact that the preliminary investigation has not been moved forward for a long time must be deemed to entail inconvenience for Julian Assange, even though the detention order has not been enforced," the court said in a statement. "It is also in the interest of the injured parties that the investigation advances."

The court further observed that prosecutors have failed to take Australian-born Assange up on his offer to be interviewed in the UK and suggested that their reasons for not doing so may not hold water, in light of their lack of progresss.

Assange's attorney said he plans to appeal Thursday's decision to Sweden's Supreme Court. ®

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