UN clears Assange, accuses UK of ‘arbitrary detention’

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s three-and-a-half-year stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid rape investigation in Sweden amounts to ‘arbitrary detention’, a United Nations panel will rule on Friday.

Assange, a former computer hacker who has been holed up in the embassy since June 2012, told the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that he was a political refugee whose rights had been infringed by being unable to take up asylum in Ecuador.

He denies allegations of rape in 2010 and has portrayed them as a ploy to have him eventually sent to the United States, where he could be put on trial over WikiLeaks’ publication of the classified military and diplomatic documents

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.

The ruling is to be published on Friday

Assange had said earlier in a short message on Twitter that he would have left the embassy if the UN panel had ruled against him.

“(But) 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,” Assange, 44, said.

 

Reuters/UO