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WikiLeaks Founder Assange Calls UN Ruling 'Vindication'

by Luis Ramirez February 05, 2016

A U.N. panel's finding that Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained is a 'vindication,' said the WikiLeaks founder Friday from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been living to avoid extradition.

Speaking by video from inside the embassy, Assange said it is 'now a matter of settled law' that he has been wrongly detained.

The panel ruled Assange has been arbitrarily detained since 2012.

Assange wants to leave the embassy where he has sought refuge for nearly four years, but faces arrest by British police. Sweden wants him for investigation of rape, an allegation he denies.

British officials have dismissed the U.N. ruling and say it will arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy.

The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a panel of independent experts, issued a statement early Friday, saying, "The various forms of deprivation of liberty to which Julian Assange has been subjected constitute a form of arbitrary detention.'

Not legally binding

The panel called for him to be released and compensated for time lost; but, the ruling Friday is not legally binding.

Sweden says it plans to keep up its investigation of him. Britain and Sweden on Friday said Assange sought refuge at the embassy of his own accord and has not been detained.

Britain's foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, dismissed the U.N. panel's ruling, saying it was "frankly ridiculous."

Assange earlier said he intended to leave the Ecuadorian embassy on Friday. His supporters said he would hold a news conference at the Frontline Club, a London press club. Instead, he spoke from the embassy, where hundreds of reporters monitored his remarks from the street. Later, he emerged onto the embassy's balcony and read a statement to his supporters, calling the ruling a "historic victory."

Assange, an Australian national, has said he wants his passport returned and a termination of all attempts to arrest him.

Release of secret US govt. files

The former computer hacker angered the United States by releasing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. government files.

He has since been linked in Sweden with a number of crimes, including one of rape in 2010.

The statute of limitations has run out on the other allegations, but the one on rape stands and Swedish officials have said a U.N. ruling would have no impact on their investigation.

His supporters say the Swedish woman in the rape case has said Swedish police "railroaded" her into accusing him.

That is not the view of the woman's lawyer, who called Friday's ruling "insulting and offensive." In a statement, Elisabeth Massi Fritz criticized the U.N. ruling, saying the panel appeared to not understand that rape "is one of the most serious abuses and violations of human rights." She said she is relieved that the ruling is not legally binding. She said Assange should 'pack his bags, leave the embassy and start cooperating with the police and the prosecutor.'

Among the secret files that his website published were hundreds of thousands of documents detailing U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It also released a video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter gunship attack in Baghdad that killed 12 people, including two staff members of the Reuters news agency.

WikiLeaks back story

Documents leaked included thousands of diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies around the world dating back several decades. Those cables, in some cases, contained details of what U.S. diplomats were saying about other world leaders; revelations that embarrassed U.S. officials.

In the United States, a grand jury is still investigating the leaks.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Thursday said Britain and Sweden would have to resolve Assange's case.

"It's unclear to me exactly what impact a pronouncement from the United Nations would have on this situation,' Earnest said.

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