Julian Assange: I'll leave the embassy and accept arrest if the UN panel rules against me

By Global Gathering — BREAKING NEWS: UN panel 'rules in Julian Assange's favor' Updated at 2016-02-06 01:00:10 +0000

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A UN panel considering the "unlawful detention" of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has ruled in his favor. Julian Assange called on Britain and Sweden on Friday to let him freely leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London after a U.N. panel ruled he had been arbitrarily detained and should be awarded compensation.

Both Britain and Sweden denied that Assange was being deprived of freedom, noting he had entered the embassy voluntarily. Britain said it could contest the decision and that Assange would be arrested if he left the embassy.

Assange, an Australian, appealed to the U.N. panel, whose decision is not binding, saying he was a political refugee whose rights had been infringed by being unable to take up asylum in Ecuador.

It ruled in his favour, although the decision was not unanimous. Three of the five members on the panel supported a decision in Assange's favour, with one dissenter and one recusing herself.

Brandishing a copy of the U.N. panel's decision from the balcony of the embassy in the Knightsbridge area of London, Assange called on Britain and Sweden to implement the ruling.

"How sweet it is. This this a victory that cannot be denied," said Assange, wearing a loosened gold tie with the top button of his shirt undone

"What right does this government, or the U.S. government, or the Swedish government have to deny my children their father?" he said below the yellow, blue and red Ecuadorian flag.

Assange had said earlier, he will leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he took refuge in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, and accept arrest on Friday if a UN panel investigating his case rules against him, he said in a statement.

Britain said it had never arbitrarily detained Assange and that the Australian had voluntarily avoided arrest by jumping bail to flee to the embassy.

But the U.N. panel of outside experts has ruled in Assange's favor, Sweden said.

"(The) working group has made the judgment that Assange has been arbitrarily detained in contravention of international commitments," a spokeswoman for the Swedish Foreign Ministry said, confirming a report by the BBC.

Assange, 44, is wanted in Sweden for questioning over allegations of rape in 2010 which the Australian denies.

Assange fears Sweden will extradite him to the United States, where he could be put on trial over WikiLeaks' publication of classified military and diplomatic documents, one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.

Britain said Assange will be arrested if he leaves his cramped quarters at the embassy and then extradited to Sweden.

The decision in his favor marks the latest twist in a tumultuous journey for Assange since he incensed the United States and its allies by using his WikiLeaks website to leak hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic and military cables in 2010, disclosures that often embarrassed Washington.

He made international headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published classified U.S. 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 U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, followed by almost 400,000 internal U.S. military reports detailing operations in Iraq.

Those disclosures were followed by the release of more than 250,000 classified cables from U.S. embassies. It would go on to add almost three million more diplomatic cables dating back to 1973.

The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is currently considering a request for relief by Assange, who argued in a submission that his time in the embassy constituted arbitrary detention.

Assange argued that he had been deprived of his fundamental liberties, including lack of access to sunlight or fresh air, adequate medical facilities, as well as legal and procedural insecurity.

In his submission to the U.N. working group, Assange argued that his time in the embassy constituted arbitrary detention.

Assange says he is the victim of a witch hunt directed by the United States and that his fate is a test case for freedom of expression.

He said that he had been deprived of his fundamental liberties, including lack of access to sunlight or fresh air, adequate medical facilities, as well as legal and procedural insecurity.

"We have been consistently clear that Mr Assange has never been arbitrarily detained by the UK but is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy," a British government spokeswoman said.

"An allegation of rape is still outstanding and a European Arrest Warrant in place, so the UK continues to have a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden," she said.

Per Samuelson, one of Assange's Swedish lawyers, said if the U.N. panel judged Assange's time in the embassy to be custody, he should be released immediately.

"It is a very important body that would be then saying that Sweden's actions are inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights. And it is international common practice to follow those decisions," Samuelson told Reuters.

Since Assange's 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.

Apa
The video shows American soldiers in an Apache helicopter in Baghdad, 2007, firing on and killing 11 Iraqi civilians.

Assange made international headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published classified U.S. 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 U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, followed by almost 400,000 internal U.S. military reports detailing operations in Iraq.

Those disclosures were followed by the release of more than 250,000 classified cables from U.S. 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.

A spokesman for Assange could not immediately be reached for comment.

Lennart Jansson, the Charge d'Affaires at the Swedish embassy in Canberra, declined to comment on the announcement.

(Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Nick Macfie)


Wikileaks.org:
Assange considers law suit against UK Deputy Prime Minister
Sweden Tells the UN that Indefinite Detention Without Charge is Fine


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