WikiLeaks' Assange calls on Sweden, Britain to allow him freedom

Assange, a computer hacker, had enraged the United States by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Reuters| Last Updated: Feb 05, 2016, 23:27 PM IST
WikiLeaks' Assange calls on Sweden, Britain to allow him freedom

London: 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.

Brandishing a copy of the U.N. panel`s decision from the balcony of the embassy in the Knightsbridge area of London, Assange called on Britain and Sweden to implement the ruling.

"How sweet it is. This this a victory that cannot be denied," said Assange, wearing a loosened gold tie with the top button of his shirt undone

"What right does this government, or the U.S. government, or the Swedish government have to deny my children their father?" he said below the yellow, blue and red Ecuadorian flag.

When a heckler persistently asked whether he planned to stay for five more years in the embassy, Assange quipped: "Can someone close that person up."

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.

"The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers that the various forms of deprivation of liberty to which Julian Assange has been subjected constitute a form of arbitrary detention," the group`s head, Seong-Phil Hong, said in a statement.

"(It) 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.”

Ecuador`s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said Assange must be allowed to go free. "What more do they want to be accused of before they start to rectify their error?" he told South American broadcaster Telesur, in reference to Britain and Sweden. Patino said Ecuador was analysing its next steps.