The founder of Wikileaks — who has been living in London’s Ecuadorian embassy since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over a rape allegation — had earlier stated he would “accept arrest” if the independent tribunal ruled he had not been unlawfully detained.
The UN Panel on Arbitrary Detention, which decides whether people have been unlawfully detained according to international legal instruments, has been considering a complaint made by Assange in September 2014. He argued he was being unlawfully detained as he could not leave the embassy of Ecuador — which has granted him political asylum — without being arrested by British police.
The UK Foreign Office says Assange is free to walk out of the embassy at any time, but it has a legal duty to extradite him. It argues that Assange voluntarily avoided lawful detention by taking refuge in the embassy.
The BBC has reported that Swedish prosecutors are now preparing to let Ecuadorian prosecutors question him inside the embassy, and questions are already being compiled and translated.
Assange, who is Australian, was first arrested in London in 2010 over sexual assault allegations made in Sweden. He had never been charged, but Sweden wants to question him in person.
He believes the allegations are a politically motivated ruse that will ultimately result in him being extradited to the United States to press charges over his activities with Wikileaks, which posts classified government documents online. It’s believed there is a US Grand Jury investigation underway over the publication of US military and diplomatic documents. “It is a fact…The US Department of Justice has repeatedly confirmed that there is a pending prosecution,” says the Wikileaks website.
The UN panel does not have powers over the British or Swedish authorities, but a decision in Assange’s favor would put pressure on them to let him leave the embassy without being arrested.
Assange has offered to make a statement from Britain, or be questioned inside the embassy, but Sweden has refused.
His lawyers have argued to the panel that he is being denied the right to fully enjoy the benefits of the asylum granted to him by Ecuador because of a flawed arrest warrant.
In a statement posted on Twitter in the early hours of Thursday morning, Assange said: “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.”