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Swedish court refuses to withdraw arrest warrant

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Head WikiLeaker Julian Assange's latest bid to move off Ecuador's couch and back into normal digs has failed: a Swedish court has upheld the arrest warrant against him on allegations of sexual assault.

Assange's lawyers filed a petition to withdraw the warrant on Tuesday, in hopes that the WikiLeaks founder could avoid extradition to Sweden should he leave the grounds of Ecuador's London embassy, where he has taken refuge for the past two years.

Although Assange maintains his innocence of the Swedish allegations – and no charges have been filed against him – he reportedly fears the Scandinavian country would extradite him to the US, where authorities would like to have a word with him over his involvement in the Chelsea Manning document leaks.

In a hearing on Wednesday, Assange's lawyers argued that the Swedish arrest warrant should be thrown out because it cannot be enforced while Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy, yet Swedish prosecutors have refused to entertain the possibility of interrogating him in the UK.

Unfortunately, the court was not persuaded.

"All in all, the district court makes the assessment that the reasons for the arrest warrant offset the infringement and adverse effects the measure entails for Julian Assange," Stockholm District court judge Lena Egelin said in her ruling, according to a report by Reuters. "He should therefore continue to be wanted for arrest in his absence."

Assange's attorneys have said they will appeal the decision.

Even if the Swedish warrant is vacated, however, Assange would likely be arrested by British police as soon as he leaves his Ecuadorean flop pad, as he is wanted for violating his bail terms when he fled to the embassy.

Assange has petitioned London to allow him safe passage to Quito, Ecuador, where he has been granted political asylum, but so far he has received no such assurances. Instead, police have surrounded the Ecuadorean embassy in a stakeout that has gone on for 24 hours a day since June 2012.

To date, blocking Assange's escape in this way has reportedly cost some £6m ($10.3m) and counting. ®

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