Assange detention order upheld by Swedish judge

Assange hoped to get order lifted, and leave Ecuadorean in UK where he has been holed up for two years

A District Court judge in Stockholm ruled on Wednesday that the Swedish detention order against WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, issued on allegations of sexual assault, will remain in force.

Assange had asked the court in late June to revoke the detention order, hoping that a revocation would get him closer to leaving the Ecuadorean embassy in the U.K., where he has been holed up for more than two years.

However, according to Judge Lena Egelin, there is still probable cause related to the allegations against him, and there is still a risk that he will fail to appear in court or in some other way avoid participation in the investigation and following proceedings, the court said in a news release.

Julian Assange
Julian Assange, left, meets with Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on June 16, 2013. (Photo: Xavier Cedeno Farm/Ecuador Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

"The Court has decided that there are still reasons for the order to remain in force to attempt to ensure that the legal proceedings will be concluded," according to a statement from the district court.

The Stockholm court ordered Assange to be detained in November 2010 "on probable cause suspected of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion."

Because Assange's whereabouts were unknown at the time, an international arrest warrant was issued by Interpol requesting Assange's arrest and extradition.

While Assange was officially ordered detained in Sweden, he has not been charged by the Swedish prosecution. His arrest warrant is part of a preliminary investigation against him.

Assange, who has maintained that the sexual incidents in question were consensual and the arrest warrant inaccurate and invalid, has said that he fears that an extradition to Sweden might eventually lead to his extradition to the U.S., where he could be charged for publishing secret U.S. diplomatic cables. The U.S. is probing the leak of those cables as a national security case. A possible prosecution is still pending.

The WikiLeaks co-founder tried to fight extradition while staying in London, but eventually the U.K. Supreme Court denied his appeal. Having exhausted all options of appeal, he then took refuge in Ecuador's U.K. embassy in June 2012. The country granted him political asylum two months later, saying that there was reasonable fear of persecution by the U.S. and that the U.K., Sweden or his home country, Australia, wanted to provide guarantees to prevent a possible extradition to the U.S.

Assange has been living in the embassy ever since.

However, Assange's rights in the U.K. are not being imposed on in such a way that it is disproportional to keep the detention order in force, the court said. And neither the prosecutors' handling of the case nor the fact that Assange has been granted political asylum and is presently residing in an embassy lead to the conclusion that the order should be revoked, the court said.

Assange has the opportunity to appeal Wednesday's ruling to the Svea Court of Appeal, the Swedish prosecution said. Assange's defense team says he will do so, according to Swedish media reports.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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