British judge accuses Julian Assange of cowardice after the Wikileaks founder failed to overturn arrest warrant

  • Julian Assange's lawyers took a case to court in London today, asking for an arrest warrant against him to be dropped.
  • Judge Emma Arbuthnot dismissed the application and attacked Assange's character.
  • She said Assange "appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law" and called on him to have the "courage" to come to court like others accused of wrongdoing.


A British judge has called out Julian Assange for cowardice after he decided not to come to a court hearing in which he asked police to give up trying to arrest him.

Emma Arbuthnot, who heard Assange's case at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London, said in a ruling that he "should have the courage" to appear in court like anybody else accused of wrongdoing.

Assange has been hiding out in Ecuador's London embassy for the past five and a half years in an effort to avoid an arrest linked to claims of sexual misconduct in Sweden.

He would likely be arrested if he were to leave and try to go to court, which is the course of action Arbuthnot appears to be recommending.

His lawyers were in court to ask Arbuthnot to cancel the arrest warrant against Assange, on the grounds that it was no longer in the public interest to uphold it. The application was declined.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/Files
A supporter of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange holds a banner outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London as he marks three years since Assange claimed asylum in the embassy on June 19, 2015. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange clocks up three years inside the Ecuadoran embassy in London today, after claiming that Swedish prosecutors cancelled a landmark meeting in his case earlier this week. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A supporter of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange holds banners outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London as he marks three years since Assange claimed asylum in the embassy on June 19, 2015. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange clocks up three years inside the Ecuadoran embassy in London today, after claiming that Swedish prosecutors cancelled a landmark meeting in his case earlier this week. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Julian Assange, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks speaks via video link during a press conference on the occasion of the ten year anniversary celebration of WikiLeaks in Berlin, Germany, October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appears on screen via video link during his participation as a guest panelist in an International Seminar on the 60th anniversary of the college of Journalists of Chile in Santiago, Chile, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido
File photo dated 05/02/16 of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who will publish more confidential documents on the US Central Intelligence Agency once a "key attack code" has been disarmed, he has revealed.
File photo dated 5/2/2016 of Julian Assange who has defended the release of emails by WikiLeaks about US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaking from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has been living for more than three years after the country granted him political asylum.
BERLIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 4: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange participates via video link at a news conference marking the 10th anniversary of the secrecy-spilling group in Berlin, Germany on October 4, 2016. (Photo by Maurizio Gambarini/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet presents in Quito, Ecuador, on June 23, 2016 the Ecuador 's book " When Google found Wikileaks". Julian Assange made his appearance to the world in 2010 with the publication by WikiLeaks of thousands of secret documents revealing conspiracies , corruption, crimes , lies, and incriminate several governments and particularly the United States as the main actor illegalities. (Photo by Rafael Rodr�uez/ACGPHOTO/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange prepares to speak from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy where he continues to seek asylum following an extradition request from Sweden in 2012, on February 5, 2016 in London, England. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has insisted that Mr Assange's detention should be brought to an end. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: A panel of WikiLeaks representitives and press look on as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks at a press conference at the Frontline Club via video link from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on 5 February 2016 in London, England. Mr Assange's speech comes a day after it was announced that the UN panel ruled he was being unlawfully detained at the Ecuadorian Embassy. (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Australian founder of whistleblowing website, 'WikiLeaks', Julian Assange speaks to media after giving a press conference in London on July 26, 2010. The founder of a website which published tens of thousands of leaked military files about the war in Afghanistan said Monday they showed that the 'course of the war needs to change'. In all, some 92,000 documents dating back to 2004 were released by the whistleblowers' website Wikileaks to the New York Times, Britain's Guardian newspaper, and Germany's Der Spiegel news weekly. Assange also used a press conference in London to dismiss the White House's furious reaction to the disclosures. AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 21: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Wikileaks founder Julian Assange poses during a portrait shoot on May 21, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Chew/Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).
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In a document explaining her decision, Arbuthnot attacked Assange's character. She accused him of considering himself "above the normal rules of law" and challenged him to personally appear in court.

Here's the relevant passage:

"The impression I have, and this may well be dispelled if and when Mr Assange finally appears in court, is that he is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice, whether the course of justice is in this jurisdiction or in Sweden.

"He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour. As long as the court process is going his way, he is willing to be bailed conditionally but as soon as the Supreme Court rules against him, he no longer wants to participate on the court’s terms but on his terms.

"I have had to consider whether it is proportionate not to withdraw the warrant for his arrest. On the one hand he is a man who has failed to attend court and has thwarted the course of justice but on the other he has been unable to leave a small flat for a number of years and is suffering physically and mentally as a result.

"Having weighed up the factors for and against and considered [Assange lawyer] Mr Summers' arguments I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.

"Defendants on bail up and down the country, and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices. He should have the courage to do so too."

Assange argues that he is being wrongly detained, and fears that handing himself over to British police would ultimately end in his extradition to the United States, where he could face harsh punishment for publishing state secrets.

Arbuthnot's ruling considered whether that was a credible fear, and concluded that "no evidence" that he would have been extradited without numerous other chances to defend himself.

Assange tweeted a number of times during the hearing. He can choose to appeal Tuesday's ruling, according to Sky News.

 

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