Judge to rule on Assange's bid to escape legal action in Britain

FILE PHOTO: 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

US-BRITAIN-ECUADOR-ASSANGE:Judge to rule on Assange's bid to escape legal action in Britain

LONDON (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will hear on Tuesday whether his legal bid to halt action against him for breaching bail has been successful, in a ruling that could pave the way for him to leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Even if a judge rules in his favor, though, he may elect to stay in the embassy, where he has been holed up for almost six years, because of his fear that the United States may seek his extradition on charges related to the activities of WikiLeaks.

Assange, 46, fled to the embassy in June 2012 after skipping bail to avoid being sent to Sweden to face an allegation of rape, which he denied. The Swedish case was dropped in May last year, but Britain still has a warrant for his arrest over the breach of bail terms.

Last week, Assange's lawyers lost an attempt to have the warrant quashed, but they launched a separate argument that it would not be in the interests of justice for the British authorities to take any further action against him.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot is expected to rule on that point at Westminster Magistrates Court on Tuesday. If her decision goes in Assange's favor, a public legal case against him would no longer exist in Britain.

It is not clear whether the United States does intend to seek Assange's extradition to face prosecution over WikiLeaks' publication of a large trove of classified military and diplomatic documents - one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.

The existence of a U.S. extradition warrant has neither been confirmed nor denied.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Andrew Roche)

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