UN Panel rules in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's favour: Reports

After, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said he could turn himself over to British police on Friday, more than three years after seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the UN Panel ruled in favour of Assange reports BBC.

Assange had said that he would finally hand himself in if his appeal to a UN panel falls through. If the appeal is successful, he said he would expect to be able to leave the embassy a free man.

According to The Guardian's  short guide on why the founder was taking refuge in an embassay in London, Assange had sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy after entering it in June 2012 following a series of legal challenges where there was an arrest warrant out for him Sweden for alleged sexual assault charges. Assange is "technically free to leave" but cannot because he would be in breach of a European arrest warrant.

The Guardian explains that the UN panel is set up to "investigate the lawfulness of state detention on individuals."

Assange said earlier on Thursday, "Should the UN 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 non-binding decision will come from the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Julian Assange. Reuters

Julian Assange. Reuters

The 44-year-old has been holed up in the embassy in west London since June 2012 in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations, charges he has denied.

Ecuador has granted him asylum, but he faces immediate arrest if he steps onto British soil and for years police have been posted around the clock outside its doors at a cost of millions of pounds.

Separately, the Australian fears he could eventually face extradition to the United States to be put on a trial over the leak of hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents by his anti-secrecy group Wikileaks.

Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006, and its activities -- including the release of 500,000 secret military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and 250,000 diplomatic cables -- have infuriated the United States.

The main source of the leaks, US Army soldier Chelsea Manning, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for breaches of the Espionage Act.

'Black stain'

WikiLeaks has said Sweden's handling of its founder's case has left a "black stain" on the country's human rights record.

In September 2014, Assange filed a complaint against Sweden and Britain to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, claiming his confinement in the embassy amounted to illegal detention.

"The only protection he has... is to stay in the confines of the embassy; the only way for Mr Assange to enjoy his right to asylum is to be in detention," the submission said.

"This is not a legally acceptable choice," it added, according to a file posted on the website justice4assange.com.

Any decision by the UN group would not be legally binding, but Justice forAssange claims its rulings influenced the release from detention of prominent figures including Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi and Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who was held by Iran for 18 months.

A divisive figure, Assange has likened his confinement in the embassy, where he lives in a small room divided into an office and a living area, to living on a space station.

Previously he lived in the more impressive surroundings of an English country mansion owned by one of his supporters, documentary maker Vaughan Smith.

In October last year, British police ended a round-the-clock guard outside the embassy building but said they would strengthen a "covert plan" to prevent his departure.

London police said at the time: "The operation to arrest Julian Assange does however continue and should he leave the embassy ... (police) will make every effort to arrest him."


with inputs from AFP

Updated Date: Feb 04, 2016 17:41 PM

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