A detention order against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on sexual assault allegations should remain in place, a Swedish judge ruled Wednesday.
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than two years in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about allegations that he raped one woman and sexually molested another.
Assange calls the charges false and politically motivated, but has said he fears that Sweden will transfer him to the United States -- where he could face the death penalty for the work of WikiLeaks -- if he were charged and convicted of a crime.
He was represented at a hearing Wednesday in Stockholm by lawyers Thomas Olsson and Per Samuelsson, who argued that the detention order against their client should be revoked.
But Stockholm District Court Judge Lena Egelin ruled that Assange was still suspected, with probable cause, of sex crimes and that his detention order should remain in place.
Elisabeth Massi Fritz, a lawyer representing one of the women making the allegations against Assange, called the decision "correct and expected."
Prosecutor Marianne Ny told reporters after the verdict that it was now up to the UK police to enforce the arrest warrant for Assange.
"It is in the hands of Julian Assange, who has taken refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, whether or not he decides to leave the embassy," she said.
Ny said the warrant could remain in place until the statute of limitations takes effect -- five years for unlawful coercion and 10 years for rape.
In court, Olsson said the case has dragged on for too long, harming his client, and claimed there was no valid reason for the prosecutor not to agree to interrogate Assange in London, rather than Sweden.
"I've been sitting in on interrogations where the FBI has traveled all the way from the United States to conduct interrogations. And if the FBI can travel from the United States, then surely the Swedish prosecutor can travel to London," he said.
Olsson noted that Assange hadn't gone outside for the past two years, a basic right usually granted to detainees.
Defense argues that Assange has political asylum
The attorney also charged that his client had a right to political asylum in Ecuador.
Assange did make himself available for questioning once in Sweden, Olsson said, and when he left the country for work reasons, he had been unaware the prosecutor would want to question him again. Assange had had only sporadic contact with his then-lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, because of a very serious threat to his safety, Olsson said.
Samuelsson said the case was in deadlock, and appealed to the court to end the stalemate.
Swedish authorities will not move forward with the investigation until Assange is in Sweden, he said, while the defense has not been able to start its work "since we are not given all the information that the prosecution has."
"The detention order cannot be executed," Samuelsson told the court. "It will not lead to Assange being transferred to Sweden within the near future because of the political asylum. And thus, this detention order will not provide anything positive for the Swedish state, but it will lead to more harm for Julian Assange."
Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren, speaking on behalf of the prosecution authority, said the detention order should remain in place. There are sufficient grounds to believe Assange could be found guilty of the allegations against him, she said, and his evasion risk remains the same.
Isgren told the court Assange had intentionally stayed away and had no intention of appearing for questioning in Sweden.
The prosecution does not want to question Assange in London because of the nature of the crimes, and because it would be difficult to get all the necessary evidence if it had to be done via another country's judicial system, Isgren said.
She also rejected his claim that the defense had not been given access to all the relevant evidence against him.
It is "likely" but not certain that Assange would be indicted after questioning, the prosecution told the court. However, the prosecution intends to go forward with the case.
WikiLeaks vows an appeal
The prosecution presented evidence that would constitute probable cause for the case against Assange behind closed doors, in order not to interfere with the investigation.