Swedish bid to extradite Julian Assange is dealt setback

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A Swedish judge has rejected a request to detain Julian Assange in absentia, complicating hopes to extradite him from the UK.

The ruling by the Uppsala District Court on Monday may also remove a potential hurdle for the WikiLeaks founder to be extradited to the USA, where he faces charges over endangering national security by conspiring to obtain and disclose classified information.

Persson said she had not yet decided on whether to appeal.

A British court last month sentenced Assange to almost a year in prison for jumping bail but could be released as early as September or October, according to Australian news outlet SBS. He is now serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for skipping bail.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said: "In an interview timed for President (Donald) Trump's arrival to the UK, a grinning UK Foreign Secretary pledged WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange's extradition to the United States will go ahead if he becomes the next prime minister".

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At the time, Assange denied the accusations but refused to be questioned in Sweden, fearing that Sweden would then extradite him to the U.S.to face conspiracy charges.

Assange remains in southeast London's maximum security Belmarsh prison.

Assange was given 22 weeks in the chokey last month, but it is seen as unlikely that he will be released from British custody while the American extradition proceedings against him go on, with the United Kingdom of the view that the bail-jumper is a flight risk.

The decision, however, does not mean that the prosecution must be terminated, Swedish News SVT reported.

Assange is wanted in Sweden on suspicion of "intentionally having carried out an intercourse" with an unnamed woman "by unduly exploiting that she was in a helpless state because of sleep", according to court documents.

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He remained there until April this year, when his dramatic arrest prompted Swedish prosecutors to reopen the investigation last month.

After his arrest, London's Metropolitan Police swiftly received an extradition request from the U.S., where he has been, separately, charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

"No date has been set yet", Persson said. For now, he is the subject of a preliminary investigation that will continue despite Monday's ruling.

"If Sweden were to make a competing extradition request, then the home secretary [in the U.K.] might choose to give that priority and that could mean that there is at best a delay to the USA extradition request", said European Union criminal law expert Anna Bradshaw of Peters & Peters. "We will constantly review the state of the investigation", she said.

The WikiLeaks editor also criticised Mr Hunt's "insulting dismissal" of Nils Melzer's plea to not extradite Mr Assange to the USA or to any other state because he would not receive a fair trial.

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He could be sentenced to 175 years in prison if convicted on all 18 counts.