UN panel concludes WikiLeaks founder has been ‘arbitrarily detained’

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A United Nations working group on Friday concluded that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” by Sweden and the United Kingdom during his more than three-year stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. 

The U.N. working group on arbitrary detention called on both countries to let Assange move around freely and ensure his safety. It also said Assange should be given compensation as well. 

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“The Working Group maintains that the arbitrary detention of Mr. Assange should be brought to an end, that his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected, and that he should be entitled to an enforceable right to compensation,” said Seong-Phil Hong, the U.N. panel’s leader. 

The decision could have little effect, since British authorities have said that if Assange leaves the embassy, they still plan to arrest and extradite him to Sweden, where he is wanted in questioning for rape accusations. Assange has not been formally charged and has denied the accusations.

During a press conference Friday, Assange described the report as a “serious finding” and said authorities’ vow not to respect it was insulting.

“I consider the outcome in this case to be vindication,” he said. 

Assange requested asylum in Ecuador in 2012 and has remained in the country’s embassy in London ever since. He has said he fears that if he is extradited to Sweden to answer questions, he will also be handed over to United States authorities for his work in publishing thousands of State Department and military cables through WikiLeaks. 

British authorities have denied Assange is being detained, noting that he has chosen for years to remain in the embassy in order to avoid arrest. Ukraine's representative on the U.N.’s five-person panel agreed. The representative dissented from the report’s conclusion, saying “issues related to the fugitive's self-confinement, such as asylum and extradition” are outside the scope of the working group. 

The Australian representative on the panel recused herself because Assange is an Australian citizen. 

In addition to his confinement in the embassy, the U.N. panel also raised concerns about Assange's 10-day detainment in a London prison back in 2010, and the report accused Swedish prosecutors of a lack of diligence, which led to his lengthy stay in the embassy.