News World Wikileaks founder Julian Assange asks London court to drop UK arrest warrant

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange asks London court to drop UK arrest warrant

julian assange
The Westminster Magistrates Court is expected to make a decision on February 6. Photo: AAP
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British prosecutors say there is a hypothetical chance Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could soon walk free from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Mr Assange’s lawyers have asked a London court to drop the arrest warrant that stems from his breach of bail conditions, as he steps up efforts to leave the embassy after five and a half years.

The court’s decision is expected to be announced on February 6.

Mr Assange, 46, has been holed up in the red brick building since 2012 after skipping bail to avoid extradition to Sweden over an allegation of rape, which he denies.

Mr Assange had feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks’ publication of swathes of classified military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in US history.

The hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court is the latest push by Mr Assange to find a way to leave the building without arrest.

The Crown Prosecution Service says if the warrant is dropped that could “hypothetically” mean Mr Assange may leave the embassy.

“He is seeking to have the warrant of arrest discontinued because the Swedes have confirmed that the extradition warrant is no longer live,” a spokesman for Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said.

“He is seeking that therefore the warrant of arrest should be taken out as well.”

While the Swedish investigation is no longer being actively pursued, British authorities say the Wikileaks founder will still be arrested if he leaves the embassy.

Mr Assange’s lawyers are asking the Westminster Magistrates Court to drop the arrest warrant because the Swedish extradition request is “no longer live”.

British police have said the charge of skipping bail was a much less serious offence than rape, but he could still face up to a year in jail if convicted.

Earlier this month, Ecuador said it had given citizenship to Mr Assange hours after the British government refused a request for him to be given diplomatic status, which could have given Mr Assange immunity from arrest should he try to leave the embassy.

For some Assange is seen as a cyber hero who exposed government abuses of power, for others he is a criminal who undermined the security of the West by exposing secrets.