Alwaght- A United Nations panel has ruled that international whistleblower Julian Assange’s three-and-a-half years in the Ecuadorian embassy amount to arbitrary detention.
WikiLeaks founder Assange had appealed to the UN working group on arbitrary detention in 2014, arguing that he was illegally confined to the embassy because he risks arrest if he leaves.
former computer hacker who has been holed up in the embassy since June 2012, told the UN 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.
The UN said the panel's opinion, which is not legally binding, was due to be published on Friday. The panel’s findings were disclosed to the Swedish and British governments on 22 January.
Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Per Samuelson, said if the working group found in his favour, “there is only one solution for Marianne Ny [the Swedish prosecutor seeking Assange’s extradition], and that is to immediately release him and drop the case”. Samuelson added: “If he is regarded as detained, that means he has served his time, so I see no other option for Sweden but to close the case.”
Assange’s lawyers also demanded assurances from the UK that he would not be arrested and subjected to potential extradition to the US, which he fears. The British police said Mr. Assange would face arrest if he leaves the embassy.
Assange has said that if the panel finds against him, he will voluntarily leave the embassy and accept arrest, “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.”
Mr. Assange, 44, fears Sweden will extradite him to the United States, where he could be put on trial over WikiLeaks' publication of the classified military and diplomatic documents, one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.
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.
Since Mr. Assange's confinement, WikiLeaks has continued to publish secret documents on wide-ranging topics.