Judge rejects Assange's plea to drop UK arrest warrant

Judge rejects Assange's plea to drop UK arrest warrant
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A British judge on Tuesday rejected a plea from lawyers representing WikiLeaks founder Julian AssangeJulian Paul AssangeMeghan McCain, Ana Navarro get heated over whistleblower debate 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 Mueller on Trump's WikiLeaks embrace: 'Problematic is an understatement' MORE to drop an arrest warrant that has kept the controversial activist holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than five years.

"I am not persuaded the warrant should be withdrawn," Judge Emma Arbuthnot said, according to The Associated Press

Arbuthnot did not immediately agree to Assange's lawyers' request to hold another hearing on the matter, the AP reported.

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Lawyers for Assange had argued that the warrant should be dropped because Assange is no longer wanted in Sweden, where police were previously investigating sexual assault and rape allegations against the WikiLeaks founder.

Swedish prosecutors dropped that case last year, but Assange still faces an arrest warrant in the United Kingdom for violating the terms of his bail. 

Assange has evaded arrest for 5 1/2 years by staying in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Ecuador granted Assange citizenship in January in an effort to resolve his prolonged legal predicament in the U.K. 

The Ecuadorian government also asked the U.K. last month to grant Assange diplomatic status, which would offer him certain legal immunities and possibly allow him to leave the embassy and the U.K. That request, however, was rejected.

In asking for the U.K. arrest warrant to be dropped, Assange's lawyers argued that his confinement in the Ecuadorian Embassy was akin to imprisonment and that, because the investigation in Sweden had closed, the warrant was irrelevant.

But U.K. prosecutors argued that dropping the warrant would amount to rewarding Assange for evading the law for so long.