A Stockholm district court on Wednesday maintained a European arrest warrant against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over a 2010 rape allegation, rejecting his lawyers\’ request to have it lifted.
"The court considers that Julian Assange is still suspected of rape… and that there is still a risk that he will abscond or evade justice," it said in a statement.
Assange will appeal the ruling, one of his Swedish lawyers, Per Samuelsson, told AFP.
"I just spoke to him, and like us he is not surprised but very critical and angry," he said.
Swedish prosecutors issued the arrest warrant because they want to question Assange about the rape allegation, which he denies.
The 44-year-old Australian sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012 after exhausting all his legal options in Britain against extradition to Sweden.
Assange\’s lawyers requested the lifting of the warrant after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a non-binding legal opinion on February 5 saying his confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy amounted to arbitrary detention by Sweden and Britain.
Both Britain and Sweden have angrily disputed the group\’s findings.
"The court finds, contrary to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, that Julian Assange\’s stay at Ecuador\’s embassy in London should not be considered a detention," the court said.
The alleged crime dates back to 2010 and the statute of limitations expires in 2020.
Assange fears that if he were sent to Sweden to face trial, he could be extradited to the United States to be tried over WikiLeaks\’ publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents and faces a long prison sentence or the death penalty.
Samuelsson said that was the point of Assange\’s refusal to travel to Sweden.
"The Swedish justice system only takes into consideration the Swedish bit, and not the whole situation given the tough sentence hanging over him in the United States," he said.