Friday, February 5, 2016 5:12 pm
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called on Britain and Sweden on Friday to let him freely leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London after a U.N. panel ruled he had been arbitrarily detained and should be awarded compensation.
Assange, a computer hacker who enraged the United States by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, has been holed up in the embassy since June 2012 to avoid a rape investigation in Sweden.
Both Britain and Sweden denied that Assange was being deprived of freedom, noting he had entered the embassy voluntarily. Britain said it could contest the decision and that Assange would be arrested if he left the embassy.
Assange, an Australian, appealed to the U.N. panel, whose decision is not binding, saying he was a political refugee whose rights had been infringed by being unable to take up asylum in Ecuador.
It ruled in his favour, although the decision was not unanimous. Three of the five members on the panel supported a decision in Assange’s favour, with one dissenter and one recusing herself.
Speaking via video link from his cramped quarters at the embassy in the Knightsbridge area of London, Assange called on Britain and Sweden to implement the U.N. panel’s decision.
“We have today a really significant victory that has brought a smile to my face,” Assange said. “It is now the task of the states of Sweden and the United Kingdom … to implement the (U.N.) verdict.”
Assange, 44, denies allegations of a 2010 rape in Sweden, saying the accusation is a ploy that would eventually take him to the United States where a criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks is still open.