Julian Assange is being ‘arbitrarily held’, UN panel to say

Source: BBC

A UN panel will conclude Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is being “arbitrarily detained” in the UK, the Swedish foreign ministry has said.

Mr Assange, 44, claimed asylum in London’s Ecuadorean embassy in 2012. He wants to avoid extradition to Sweden over a rape claim, which he denies.

The Met Police says Mr Assange will be arrested if he leaves the embassy.

Swedish prosecutors said the UN panel’s decision would have “no formal impact” on its ongoing investigation.

Mr Assange earlier said his passport should be returned and his arrest warrant dropped if the UN panel ruled in his favour.

The Australian was originally arrested in London in 2010 under a European Arrest Warrant issued by Sweden over rape and sexual assault claims.

In 2012 while on bail, he claimed asylum inside the Ecuadorean embassy in Knightsbridge after the UK Supreme Court ruled the extradition against him could go ahead.

Swedish prosecutors dropped two sex assault claims against Mr Assange last year. However, he still faces the more serious accusation of rape.

‘Avoiding lawful arrest’

In 2014, Mr Assange complained to the UN that he was being “arbitrarily detained” as he could not leave the embassy without being arrested.

The application claimed Mr Assange had been “deprived of his liberty in an arbitrary manner for an unacceptable length of time”.

The UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is due to announce the findings of its investigation on Friday.

The Press Association said key factors in the panel’s decision will include the inability of Mr Assange to access political asylum, the fact he has never been charged, and changes to UK law and procedures since he arrived at the embassy.

Wikileaks earlier tweeted it was waiting for “official confirmation” of the UN panel’s decision.

Downing Street said the panel’s ruling would not be legally binding in the UK while a European Arrest Warrant remained in place.

“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,” he added.

“The UK continues to have a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden.”

The Swedish foreign ministry said in a statement that it noted the UN panel’s decision “differs from that of the Swedish authorities”.

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