Julian Assange says he'll 'accept arrest' if U.N. panel rules against him

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Story highlights

  • Sweden says a U.N. panel statement "has no formal impact" on its own investigation
  • The U.N. Working Group is said to have ruled that Julian Assange is being unlawfully detained
  • London police will arrest Assange if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy, an official says

London (CNN)WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may at last leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been holed up for three and a half years.

But even though he may leave with the support of a United Nations working group, he is still likely to be arrested in Britain on sex crime charges for alleged crimes in Sweden that date back several years.
The U.N. working group is believed to have decided that Assange is being unlawfully detained, according to the Press Association, a British news organization. The decision is scheduled to be published Friday.
Assange had said he would surrender to British police for arrest Friday if the U.N. group ruled he had not been unlawfully detained.
However, any judgment by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention would be only a "moral recommendation" and would not be legally binding.
When asked by CNN on Thursday, a U.N. spokesperson said: "Tomorrow morning we will release the official opinion of the working group, and we cannot comment until the decision is made public tomorrow. Whatever is seen in reports today is not official."

Sweden: U.N. group's statement has no impact

Whatever the U.N. group decides, it won't affect how Swedish authorities look at Assange's case. Nor will it necessarily affect what police in London will do.
"The statement from the working group has no formal impact on the ongoing investigation, according to Swedish law," Sweden's Prosecution Authority said Thursday.
The Swedes issued an arrest warrant for Assange on sex crime allegations unrelated to WikiLeaks in 2010. Assange was in London at the time, and as he fought to have the warrant dismissed, Ecuador granted him political asylum. He's been living in the embassy since June 2012.
The Swedish prosecutors' statement noted a May 2015 court ruling that Assange "should still be detained" and that Ecuadorian officials haven't allowed Swedish authorities to interview him.
"In view of the progress of (this) case," a prosecutor shall continuously consider whether a decision on detention should stand," the Swedish Prosecution Authority added.
London police ended their 24-hour guard of the Ecuadorian Embassy in October, saying it was no longer "proportionate."
But a London Metropolitan Police representative told CNN that the department's position on Assange has not changed: He would be arrested if he left the embassy, with police considering the use of "covert tactics."

Assange will 'accept arrest' if he loses decision

Assange said he submitted a complaint to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention about his case in 2014. Justice For Assange, a site set up to fight for his release, said the panel is expected to rule this week on whether Assange's detention arbitrarily deprived him of his liberty -- in other words, whether it is illegal.
"Should the UN 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," Assange said in a statement posted by WikiLeaks.
But Assange added that if the panel ruled in his favor, "I expect the immediate return of my passport and the termination of further attempts to arrest me."
The Australian has not been charged and has denied the rape claim. He says it is retaliation for WikiLeaks having released thousands of pages of government secrets.
He has said he fears Sweden would extradite him to the United States, where he could face the death penalty if he is charged and convicted of publishing those documents.
In his appeal to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Assange said his confinement has deprived him of access to fresh air, sunlight and adequate medical care. He says he is subject to round-the-clock surveillance and remains in a constant state of insecurity.
In other instances of detention, the U.N. working group called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar after years of house arrest. The group has also ruled for the release of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy, but he remains in prison.
"This is an application framed by political events," Assange wrote. "(I)t could be distilled to the simple and irrefutable fact that a political refugee, who has never been charged, has been deprived of their liberty for nearly four years, and confined in a very small space for over two years."