17 September 2016
by Nick Miller
Swedish court upholds arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian AssangeSuitcases being loaded into a truck outside the Ecuador's London embassy on Friday.
Sweden's court of appeal has upheld an arrest warrant for Julian Assange.
It refused appeals by Assange to set aside a detention order, and to hold a hearing in which he can present his defence against accusations of rape.
However Assange's legal team say they will appeal the decision.
"The Court of Appeal finds that Julian Assange is still suspected on probable cause of rape… in Engkoping on 17 August 2010," the court found in a judgment published on Friday.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The court found there was a strong public interest in the investigation of the rape claim against Assange.
It acknowledged that his 'detention in absentia' at the Ecuadorian embassy has "lasted for a very long time and has resulted in various detrimental effects for Julian Assange".
It took into account – but decided it was not bound by - a recent decision by a UN working group that Assange was being arbitrarily detained, against international law.
"Julian Assange cannot be deemed to be unable to leave the Embassy," the judgement said. "His stay, as such, is not to be regarded as an unlawful deprivation of liberty."
There was a strong public interest in moving the criminal investigation forward.
In a statement issued via his lawyers Assange said he was "disappointed that the Swedish Court of Appeal today declined to uphold Sweden's binding international human rights obligations".
"Sadly, Sweden has a long history of compromising its rule of law where the perceived interests of the United States are concerned," the statement said.
"Mr Assange will appeal the decision and remains confident that his indefinite and unlawful detention will cease and that those responsible will be brought to justice."
Assange's lawyer Melinda Taylor told Fairfax Media her client had the right to appeal the decision to Sweden's Supreme Court, and his lawyers in Sweden have indicated they intend to exercise this right.
"It is a matter of considerable concern for them that the court declined to apply the UN Working Group's finding that Mr Assange is in fact detained at present, and that this detention is illegal," she said.
"The court also failed to give sufficient weight to the fact that Julian is not to blame for the delays in the investigation; six years is simply too long to investigate one allegation, for which he was already cleared by the previous prosecutor.
"These delays are incompatible with his presumption of innocence, and right to clear his name in an expeditious manner.
"It is also disturbing that the court failed to refer to Ecuador's decision to grant him asylum under the 1951 Refugee Convention. Sweden is a state party to this convention, and cannot ignore the fact that Ecuador has, after a thorough assessment, determined that Julian requires effective protection against the risk of torture and persecution presented by the ongoing US investigation against him and Wikileaks."
Earlier this week Swedish prosecutors confirmed they would interview Assange on October 17 at the Ecuadorian embassy.
Under a deal brokered by Ecuador, the questioning will be done by a prosecutor from Ecuador, but Swedish chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren and a police investigator from Sweden will also be present and will ask questions via the Ecuadorian.
After the interview the Swedish prosecutors will assess whether to pursue the investigation further.
There was a brief flurry of excitement among waiting media at the Ecuadorean embassy behind Harrods department store, where Assange has been living for more than four years.
A white truck pulled up and began loading suitcases from the embassy, prompting speculation Assange was moving out.
But after the decision from Stockholm was announced there was no sign of movement behind the embassy curtains.
On a grey, rainy morning even a freed Assange might have preferred to stay in with a cup of tea.