LONDON (AP) — Lawyers for Julian Assange asked a British court on Friday to drop a U.K. arrest warrant for the WikiLeaks founder, a move that would free him to leave the Ecuadorean embassy after more than five years. A judge plans to rule on the application next month.
Assange’s attorney said the warrant serves no purpose because he is no longer wanted for questioning in Sweden over alleged sex offenses.
Swedish prosecutors dropped the case last year, saying there was no prospect of bringing Assange to Sweden in the foreseeable future.
But Assange still faces arrest if he leaves the embassy of Ecuador in London, where he has been holed up since 2012. He is wanted for jumping bail and taking refuge in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.
Lawyer Mark Summers told Westminster Magistrates’ Court that the arrest warrant had “lost its purpose and its function.”
Judge Emma Arbuthnot said she would deliver her ruling on Feb. 6.
If she rules in Assange’s favor he will be free to leave the embassy without being arrested by British police.
Earlier this month Ecuador said it had granted the Australian-born hacker citizenship, as it tried to unblock the stalemate that has kept Assange as its houseguest for five years. It also asked Britain to grant him diplomatic status. Britain refused, saying “the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.”
But Assange suspects there is a secret U.S. indictment against him for WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked classified American documents, and that the U.S. authorities will seek his extradition.
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