Founder of Wikileaks Julian Assange may soon be out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, though British police still plan to arrest him should he exit the building. Earlier today, Assange stated he would accept arrest if a United Nations decision on whether he had been unlawfully detained went against him. Otherwise, he expected to be allowed to walk free.
That decision is due Friday, but a BBC report has indicated the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) would rule in Assange’s favour.
The Wikileaks founder has been holed up in the embassy since 2012, a place he sought asylum after warrants for his arrest were issued as part of an investigation into sexual assault. Assange has not been charged, and two of three charges originally filed in Sweden have been dropped.
He fears, however, if arrested he will not just be questioned over the allegations, but also be extradited for his work with Wikileaks. His organization published numerous confidential files belonging to the US government, most notably the “Collateral Murder” video showing the killings of two Reuters journalists caught up in an air strike in Baghdad, Iraq.
In 2014, he appealed to the UN’s WGAD, saying he had been arbitrarily detained and “deprived of a number of his fundamental liberties”. He complained of consistent surveillance, though the UK stood officers down around the embassy in the Knightsbridge area of London in October 2015, opting for more covert measures.
Early this morning, Assange put out a statement over the official Wikileaks Twitter account, saying: “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.”
But the stalemate could continue, even in light of the UN decision, which may not hold as much sway in the UK. According to criteria for appeals on its website, the body simply sends its recommendations to governments once a decision is reached.
The Metropolitan Police told FORBES it is maintaining its position from October last year, that if Assange left the embassy, it would make every effort to arrest him.
A UK government spokesperson from the Foreign Commonwealth Office added: “We will not pre-empt any opinions from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
“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.
“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.”
This article was written by Thomas Fox-Brewster from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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