LONDON : To his supporters, Australian-born Julian Assange is cyber hero who exposed governments abuses of power.

To his critics, he is a criminal who undermined the security of the West and endangered lives in many countries by exposing secrets.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange lost one legal bid to have a UK arrest warrant against him quashed on Tuesday but immediately launched another-

To have the British authorities halt any action against him on public interest grounds.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot said she would give her decision on Feb 13.

A ruling in Assange's favor could pave the way for him to leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London where, where he has been holed up for over five years.

Assange, 46, entered the embassy in an apartment in the wealthy district of Knightsbridge to avoid extradition to Sweden to face an allegation of rape, which he denied. The Swedish case has since been dropped.

He has said he feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over  Wikileaks publication of leaked US military and diplomatic documents.

As things stand, if he were to leave the embassy, he would face arrest by the British police for breaching bail conditions when he fled there instead of handing himself in to be sent to Sweden.

A united Nations working group has ruled his present situation is ''arbitrary, unreasonable unnecessary and disproportionate.''

''The last 5-1/2 years he has spent might be thought adequate, if not severe punishment for the actions he took,'' added his lawyer.

''Mr Assange remains ready to face British justice - but not at the risk of being forced to face  American injustice,'' said his lawyer Jennifer Robinson.



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