(Adds Ecuador statement)
STOCKHOLM, Sept 16 A Swedish appeals court
decided to uphold the arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder
Julian Assange on Friday, prolonging the six year long legal
stand off with prosecutors and clearing the way for the
Wikileaks founder to be questioned in London next month.
Assange, 45, is wanted by Swedish authorities for
questioning over allegations, which he denies, that he committed
rape in 2010.
"The Court of Appeal shares the assessment of the District
Court that Julian Assange is still suspected on probable cause
of rape," the court said.
Assange avoided possible extradition to Sweden by taking
refuge in Ecuador's London embassy in 2012. He says he fears
further extradition to the United States, where a criminal
investigation into the activities of Wikileaks is ongoing.
Per Samuelson, a Swedish lawyer representing Assange, said
he had not yet talked to his client.
"I assume we will appeal, it would be strange if we did
not," he said.
The court said the lengthy deadlock and the previous
passivity of Swedish prosecutors in pursuing the investigation
were arguments for setting aside the warrant, but there remained
a strong public interest argument for it remaining in place.
"At present, continued detention therefore appears to be
both effective and necessary so as to be able to move the
investigation forward," the court said.
Ecuador has set an Oct. 17 date for questioning Assange at
its London embassy.
Swedish prosecutors have said the questioning will be
conducted by an Ecuadorian prosecutor.
The latest request by Assange to have the warrant for his
arrest overturned came after a U.N. panel in February said his
stay at the Ecuadorean embassy equalled arbitrary detention,
that he should be let go and be awarded compensation.
"Julian Assange is being detained arbitrarily and should be
freed immediately," Ecuador's government said in a statement,
adding that it would continue to protect and give him asylum in
line with its traditional defense of human rights.
(Reporting by Daniel Dickson, Johan Ahlander and Johan Sennero
in Stockholm; Alexandra Valencia in Quito; editing by Alistair
Scrutton and Diane Craft)