London, Jan 27 (PTI) A UK judge has expressed concern over the health of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuador embassy in London since he sought asylum there over five years ago.
Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, the judge who is currently also presiding over the extradition trial of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya – the next hearing date for which remains uncertain, reserved her judgement in the Assange case after a hearing on Friday.
The hearing involved a plea by Assange’s lawyers to cancel a pending arrest warrant against the campaigner.
They argued that the only thing stopping the 46-year-old from leaving the building is a threat that he will be arrested by the Scotland Yard for breaching bail conditions.
As proceedings in Sweden over rape allegations have now been dropped, they believe the British arrest warrant has lost its purpose.
“I am particularly concerned that there are some medical issues. I am aware that he has depression, frozen shoulder and a terribly bad tooth,” the judge said, who is expected to announce her judgement next month.
While legal proceedings concerning the rape charges were dropped in May last year, Assange fears if he is arrested he could be extradited to America where he is wanted for leaking secretive documents via Wikileaks.
In a case summary handed to the court, his defence lawyer Mark Summers said: “He has spent five and a half years in conditions which, on any view, are akin to imprisonment, without access to adequate medical care or sunlight, in circumstances where his physical and psychological health have deteriorated and are in serious peril”.
His lawyers have handed the judge medical evidence as part of their claim to get his arrest warrant dropped, ‘The Daily Telegraph’ reported.
Aaron Watkins, representing the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “Assange has been released on bail in proceedings, he was under a duty to surrender to custody of the court and he failed to surrender at the appointed time, therefore a warrant stands”.
Earlier this month, Ecuador had granted Assange citizenship as another ring of protection for the Wikileaks chief. He is expected to leave for the South American country if he is allowed to step out of the embassy in Knightsbridge, central London.
Another route to secure his exit from the embassy under the garb of diplomatic immunity was also lost when he was recently denied diplomatic status by the UK government.
“The government of Ecuador recently requested diplomatic status for Assange here in the UK. The UK did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter,” said a spokesperson for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
The case at Westminster Magistrates Court in London will now be heard on February 6.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.