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Assange calls 'arbitrary detainment' ruling a 'vindication'

Officials in Sweden and the United Kingdom rejected a UN panel opinion Friday calling Julian Assange a victim of “arbitrary detainment” as the WikiLeaks founder’s legal team called for his immediate release without fear of extradition to Scandinavia, where he faces rape charges.

“What right does this (British) government or the U.S. government or the Swedish government have to deny my children their father for five and half years without any charges in any country? It’s time today to have their father back,” Assange said Friday morning to a small crowd of protesters and media from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been holed up since June 2012.

The UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention announced Friday that Assange’s rights have been denied throughout his three-year residency because he has not been able to leave the Embassy for fear of an immediate arrest. The committee said that the detainment is unlawful.

“I am very grateful for the decision today,” Assange declared, holding a copy of the UN report in his hand and occasionally reading from it during the brief news conference. 

Assange is wanted in Sweden and the U.S., though Ecuador offered him political asylum and has housed him since 2012, when he arrived after serving 550 days under house arrest.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a copy of a U.N. ruling as he makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a copy of a U.N. ruling as he makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. 

The UN working group said it found that “the detention should be brought to an end and that Mr. Assange should be afforded the right to compensation.”

Britain has promised to arrest the native Australian if he comes out of the Embassy, because of a ruling that he should be extradited to Sweden handed down the same year.

Assange argued during the video feed on Friday that officials in Sweden and Britain can’t appeal the UN panel finding.

“That’s, of course, a matter for the UN counsel to decide, and a matter for Sweden and UK — do they really want to go down that path?” Assange said.

A supporter holds up a poster of Assange outside the embassy in central London.TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS

A supporter holds up a poster of Assange outside the embassy in central London.

Former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon insisted Sweden and the U.K. are bound to abide by the panel’s findings since they are members of the international body.

Garzon, who is part of Assange’s legal team, said both countries cooperated with the panel and it is “absurd” for them to ignore its decision because it went against them.

Assange has been accused of a 2010 rape in Sweden, though his supporters say that he could eventually be extradited to the U.S. and be charged for publishing classified American government documents leaked in part by Chelsea Manning.

In recent days, the British government has said that it will arrest the Wikileaks leader when he comes out of the Embassy even if the UN committee sided with him and said his situation in London violated his human rights.

The South American country has offered Assanger asylum, though he has remained cooped up because of the arrest threat.

Assange’s supporters are suspicious that he could eventually be extradited to the U.S. and charged with espionage for publishing American military reports and hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables.

The documents showed details of U.S. operations in Iraq, and diplomatic workers making a series of damaging claims about world leaders such as Vladimir Putin and the Saudis.

The Swedish foreign ministry, which like Britain had seen the UN group’s decision before its announcement, said, “The working group’s view differs from that of the Swedish authorities,” according to the Guardian.

Assange (pictured in 2014) had said that he would accept arrest if the working group found against him, though it is not yet known if he will leave the embassy after it found in his favor.Frank Augstein/AP

Assange (pictured in 2014) had said that he would accept arrest if the working group found against him, though it is not yet known if he will leave the embassy after it found in his favor.

In its statement Friday, the UN working group said there was a “lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor in its investigations” that made the detention arbitrary.

Britain said it will formally contest the finding, saying that Assange has never been arbitrarily detained and is “voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest.”

Assange had previously said that he should be given his passport and allowed to leave if the working group has on his side.

The website’s Twitter account said that a press conference for him would be held at the Frontline Club, which is miles from the embassy, at noon.

Assange had said that he would accept arrest if the UN found against him, but it is not known if he will exit his hiding place after the positive ruling.

With News Wire Services

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cbrennan@nydailynews.com

Tags:
wikileaks ,
julian assange ,
united nations ,
ecauador ,
united kingdom ,
sweden

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Nation / World – NY Daily News

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