Assange, a former computer hacker who has been holed up in the
embassy since June 2012, told the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary
Detention that he was a political refugee whose rights had been
infringed by being unable to take up asylum in Ecuador.
Reuters was unable immediately to confirm the BBC report and the UN
said the panel's opinion, which is not legally binding, was due to
be published on Friday.
Britain said it had never arbitrarily detained Assange and that the
Australian had voluntarily avoided arrest by jumping bail to flee to
It said Assange will be arrested if he leaves the embassy and then
extradited to Sweden for questioning over allegations of rape in
2010. Assange denies the rape allegations.
"Should the U.N. 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," Assange said in a statement posted on
the Wikileaks Twitter account.
"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."
A decision in his favor would mark the latest twist in a tumultuous
journey for Assange since he incensed the United States and its
allies by using his WikiLeaks website to leak hundreds of thousands
of secret U.S. diplomatic and military cables in 2010, disclosures
that often embarrassed Washington.
Assange, 44, fears Sweden will extradite him to the United States,
where he could be put on trial over WikiLeaks' publication of the
classified military and diplomatic documents, one of the largest
information leaks in U.S. history.
He made international headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks
published classified U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by
Apache helicopters that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including
two Reuters news staff.
Later that year, the group released over 90,000 secret documents
detailing the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, followed by
almost 400,000 internal U.S. military reports detailing operations
Those disclosures were followed by the release of more than 250,000
classified cables from U.S. embassies. It would go on to add almost
three million more diplomatic cables dating back to 1973.
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In his submission to the U.N. working group, a body of outside
experts, Assange argued that his time in the embassy constituted
Assange says he is the victim of a witch hunt directed by the United
States and that his fate is a test case for freedom of expression.
He said that he had been deprived of his fundamental liberties,
including lack of access to sunlight or fresh air, adequate medical
facilities, as well as legal and procedural insecurity.
"We have been consistently clear that Mr Assange has never been
arbitrarily detained by the UK but is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding
lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy," a
British government spokeswoman said.
"An allegation of rape is still outstanding and a European Arrest
Warrant in place, so the UK continues to have a legal obligation to
extradite Mr Assange to Sweden," she said.
Per Samuelson, one of Assange's Swedish lawyers, said if the U.N.
panel judged Assange's time in the embassy to be custody, he should
be released immediately.
"It is a very important body that would be then saying that Sweden's
actions are inconsistent with the European Convention on Human
Rights. And it is international common practice to follow those
decisions," Samuelson told Reuters.
Since Assange's confinement, WikiLeaks has continued to publish
documents on topics such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of
the world's biggest multinational trade deals, which was signed by
12 member nations on Thursday in New Zealand.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Dickson in Stockholm and Michael
Holden and Elizabeth Piper in London. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)
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