Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who has been living in the London embassy of Ecuador for more than three years, has announced he will leave his place of safety on Friday.
A United Nations investigation into his case will reveal its finding at the end of this week, but early reports are already announcing the UN will find Assange to have been “illegally detained.”
In a message released Thursday, Julian Assange announced he will leave the embassy regardless of the UN decision.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) February 4, 2016
Julian Assange has been granted political asylum by the Ecuador government but hasn’t been able to leave the embassy’s premises as the U.K holds an arrest warrant against him, which would come into effect as soon as he steps out of the building.
Assange is wanted in Sweden over one sex assault allegation, which he has always denied, and thinks he could also be transported to the U.S. to be questioned over his WikiLeaks activities.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has been studying his case following a complaint he filed in 2014 against Sweden, and Britain and is due to make its decision official in its report Friday.
Although the decision isn’t expected until Friday, it is believed the UN will rule that Assange has been unlawfully detained, as reported by BBC News. This hasn’t been confirmed by the UN yet.
Xabier Celaya, the press officer of UN High Commission for human rights, said to RT they “can’t confirm” the BBC News report. “We can only comment on the official document,” he added. If rumours are true, the agency is expected to ask Britain and Sweden to release Julian Assange.
Somewhere, a harassed Met official is rifling frantically through cabinets looking for Julian Assange’s passport. “Where did we put it?”
— Janine Gibson (@janinegibson) February 4, 2016
Assange had announced in August 2014 that he would leave the embassy “soon,” as reported by the Guardian, but always refused to hand himself to the authorities.
His lawyer, Melinda Taylor, previously said Assange would not simply walk out of the embassy, as she expects he would be arrested straight away. If the UN rules in his favor, the agency would “call on the UK and Sweden to apply their international obligations,” she said. This would mean giving Assange the right to freedom of movement and enabling him to leave the London building.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has previously worked on the cases of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar and of Mohamed Nasheed, the previous president of Maldives, leading to their releases.
The decision has already been made, and Ms. Taylor confirmed all countries were informed accordingly, but it will not be made public until Friday.
Although much hope is being placed in the verdict rendered by the UN on Friday, the working group’s decision is not legally binding in the UK or in Sweden, as BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman explained.
The UN decision will help Julian Assange’s case and adds “considerable legal and moral force to the argument he is being arbitrarily detained,” Coleman said.
In his statement published Thursday by WikiLeaks on Twitter, 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.”
He added, “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.”
The Inquisitr previously reported that the London Metropolitan Police announced they would withdraw round-the-clock police officers from outside the Ecuadorian embassy after it was revealed the costs to the UK public had gone as far as $14 million (£9 million British Pounds), a figure which was later revised up to $18 million (£12 million British Pounds) of taxpayers’ money.
Scotland Yard announced they would still deploy “a number of overt and covert” tactics to arrest Assange.
Five experts compose the UN panel which has ruled over Julian Assange’s detention.
Here’s the membership of the UN panel which has reportedly ruled in Assange’s favour re: his “detention” pic.twitter.com/5dstp0d3KM
— James Ball (@jamesrbuk) February 4, 2016
The UN ruling will be made public Friday, February 5, at 11 a.m. Geneva time.
[Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]