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Yes, Assange, we'll still nick you for skipping bail, rules court

WikiLeaker 'considers himself above the normal rule of law' says Chief Magistrate

Infamous cupboard-dwelling WikiLeaker Julian Assange has failed yet again to get his arrest warrant for jumping bail quashed by an English judge.

Only last week Assange was told by District Judge Emma Arbuthnot, the Chief Magistrate of England and Wales, that the warrant was very much still valid.

Naturally, Assange did not attend either last week's hearing or today's, thanks to his self-imposed exile inside Ecuador's London embassy.

His barrister, Mark Summers QC, then argued that the arrest warrant was not in the public interest and therefore ought to be scrapped, with judgment being reserved until today for the district judge to sit and ponder Assange's five arguments.

"I accept that Mr Assange had expressed fears of being returned to the United States from a very early stage in the Swedish extradition proceedings but, absent any evidence from Mr Assange on oath, I do not find that Mr Assange's fears were reasonable," ruled Judge Arbuthnot on Summers' first point that failing to comply with the legal process was reasonable.

"Rather than rendering Mr Assange to the United States, if the US had initiated a request to extradite Mr Assange from Sweden, Sweden would have contacted this court and the judiciary here would have had to consider the request."

Though it was not explicitly stated in today's decision, Assange could try doing a Lauri Love and invoke English law's forum bar to stop his extradition from London to the US, though his main fear is some extralegal process that would see him flown to America without any judicial process in this country.

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.

Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot, Chief Magistrate of England and Wales

The Chief Magistrate also poured scorn on the infamous UN working group which declared that Assange's self-imposed exile amounted to "arbitrary detention", ruling that the group "appears to have based its conclusions on some misunderstandings of what occurred after Mr Assange's arrest".

"What I can say is that the Working Group was quite wrong when it implied that Mr Assange had been left outside the cloak of legal protection. Quite the opposite," commented the judge as she placed "little weight" on the group's views.

Assange also tried claiming that failing to hand himself in to the authorities should not count against him because he agreed to be interviewed by Swedish prosecutors in the embassy, which the judge threw out. She also gave short shrift to Assange's complaint that his self-imposed exile was making him ill. District Judge Arbuthnot said:

I have read the medical reports. Mr Assange is fortunately in relatively good physical health. He has a serious tooth problem and is in need of dental treatment and needs an MRI scan on a shoulder which has been described as frozen. I accept he has depression and suffers respiratory infections. Mr Sommers contends he has been punished enough. I do not accept there is no sunlight; there are a number of photographs of him on a balcony connected to the premises he inhabits. Mr Assange's health problems could be much worse.

The fifth, and final, forlorn argument that Assange put forward in favour of dropping the warrant was that he couldn't be extradited because Sweden no longer wants him. The judge described his lawyer's argument on this point as "arguably wrong" (a strong condemnation from the otherwise reserved English judiciary), adding: "On the face of it, the reason for stopping the [Swedish] investigation is Mr Assange's absence from the court proceedings in Sweden and on that basis extradition may not be barred were the Swedish request still in place."

"I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years," concluded the judge. ®

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