Julian Assange’s health has reportedly deteriorated in prison. Picture: AP
Julian Assange’s health has reportedly deteriorated in prison. Picture: AP

Judge rejects Assange detention

WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange's rape claim will continue to be investigated but a Swedish court ruled that he will not be detained.

Swedish prosecutors sought a detention order in Assange's absence at Uppsala District Court, 70km north of Stockholm, as they stepped up their extradition bid.

The court opened with Sweden's deputy director of public prosecution Eva-Marie Persson telling the judge that she wanted Assange detained over the rape claim.

Assange's Swedish lawyer Per Samuelson said that his client wanted the court proceedings to be public, local media reported.

But the judge ruled that the details of the case meant it must be held behind closed doors, which is standard practice in Sweden, and cleared the court.

The court rejected the prosecutors application, the Swedish Prosecutors Authority confirmed last night.

"I fully respect the court's decision. They had to take a position on a difficult assessment issue, which I considered should be examined by a court", Ms Persson said.

"The investigation continues with interviews in Sweden. I will also issue a European Investigation Order in order to interview Julian Assange. No date has been set yet. We will constantly review the state of the investigation."

It comes as UK leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt said that he would not stop the United States from extraditing Assange there over spying charges.

WikiLeaks criticised Mr Hunt, saying his comments on US television were timed to coincide with US president Donald Trump's visit to the UK.

The group claimed that the UK had not given Assange fair treatment.

Ms Persson has made the application over an allegation of rape in August 2010.

 

Julian Assange supporters gather outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London last week. Picture: AP
Julian Assange supporters gather outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London last week. Picture: AP
 

 

 

"I am requesting the district court to detain Assange in his absence, on probable cause suspected of rape. If the court decides to detain him, I will issue a European Arrest Warrant concerning his surrender to Sweden," she said before the hearing.

Assange remains in southeast London's maximum security Belmarsh prison. He has been in ill health and lost a substantial amount of weight, according to his supporters.

He is currently serving a 50-week sentence for breaching bail, just two weeks short of the maximum sentence.

Assange's earliest possible release is at 25 weeks, but it was unlikely he would get out as he has the Swedish case and an extradition application from the United States on 18 charges that carry a maximum 175-year jail term.

Legal experts say that Assange would be held in detention while the court applications for each extradition, which could take up to five years, were heard.

Ms Persson added that UK Home Secretary would make the call on whether Sweden or the US gets first access to Assange.

Assange has spent more than seven years delaying the investigation into the rape claim in Sweden, which concerns whether or not he used a condom during consensual sex.

Judge Deborah Taylor said in sentencing Assange on the bail breaches that his time in the Ecuadorean embassy, where he sought asylum until April, has hampered the Swedish investigation.

Wikileaks supporters have claimed that he had been "tortured", pointing to comments from United Nations spokesman Nils Melzer.

Assange has complained of teeth pain while in the Ecuadorean embassy but exact details of his latest illness have not been made public.

Journalist John Pilger denied that Assange had been on a hunger strike.

Assange's health went downhill shortly after the US added 17 extra charges to his extradition bid there, increasing the maximum sentence from five years to 175 years.

He has denied the rape claim and has said that the US charges were political.

 

stephen.drill@news.co.uk