UN panel on detention ‘rules in favour’ of Julian Assange
WikiLeaks founder wanted in Sweden over allegations of sexual assault in 2010
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange fears Sweden will extradite him to the United States, where he could be put on trial over WikiLeaks’ publication of classified military documents. Photograph: John Stillwell/Reuters
A United Nations working group is believed to have decided that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being unlawfully detained.
Mr Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than three years and has been granted political asylum by the Ecuador government.
He filed a complaint against Sweden and the UK in September 2014 which has been considered by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The group of legal experts has made previous rulings on whether imprisonment or detention is lawful, which have led to people being released.
The decision is due to be published on Friday but it is understood that it has ruled in Mr Assange’s favour. It is expected the move will lead to calls from the UN for the UK and Sweden to release him.
Mr Assange said he will hand himself over to police for arrest on Friday if the UN group rules that he has not been unlawfully detained.
The Metropolitan Police have said they will make “every effort” to arrest the WikiLeaks founder should he leave the embassy.
Mr Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden over an allegation of sexual assault, which he has always denied, and is fighting against extradition. He was granted political asylum by Ecuador and has remained in their embassy since 2012.
Expects to walk free
In a statement published by the WikiLeaks activist group, Mr Assange said he expected to walk free if British and Swedish authorities do not receive approval from the UN group.
Mr Assange said: “Should the UN (working party) announce tomorrow that I have lost my case against the United Kingdom and Sweden, I shall exit the embassy at noon on Friday to accept arrest by British police as there is no meaningful prospect of further appeal.
“However, should I prevail and the state parties be found to have acted unlawfully, I expect the immediate return of my passport and the termination of further attempts to arrest me.”
The statement was signed: “Julian
Assange, Embassy of Ecuador, London.”
According to the website justice4assange.com, the 44-year-old Australian has so far spent 1,885 days “under house arrest”.
The embassy building remains under covert surveillance.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “The operation to arrest Julian Assange does however continue and should he leave the embassy the MPS will make every effort to arrest him.”
Not legally binding
British prime minister David Cameron’s spokesman said that if Assange leaves the Ecuadorian embassy in London he will be arrested. The spokesman said that any decision by a United Nations panel that is examining Mr Assange’s appeal would not be legally binding and that an arrest warrant would be put into effect if he left the embassy.
Mr Assange made international headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published classified US military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff.
Later that year, the group released over 90,000 secret documents detailing the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan, followed by almost 400,000 internal US military reports detailing operations in Iraq.
Those disclosures were followed by the release of more than 250,000 classified cables from US embassies. It would go on to add almost three million more diplomatic cables dating back to 1973.
Since his confinement, WikiLeaks has continued to publish documents on topics such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the world’s biggest multinational trade deals, which was signed by 12 member nations on Thursday in New Zealand.