Julian Assange is now free and 'vindicated'

A UN panel ruled in the WikiLeaks founder's favour yesterday and said he should be freed and compensated for his 'arbitrary detention'; Assange said he feels 'vindicated'

Geneva/London: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be allowed to walk free immediately and compensated for his "arbitrary detention" of over five years by the UK and Sweden, a UN panel ruled yesterday, a finding hailed by the whistleblower as "vindication" of his innocence.

Julian Assange
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on a screen as he addresses the media from the London embassy of Ecuador yesterday. PIC/AFP

The Geneva-based five-member 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," said Seong-Phil Hong, head of the expert panel of the Group.

Assange speaks
Assange told reporters via video link from the Ecuadorean embassy building in central London, where he has been holed up, that "it is now the task of the states of Sweden and the United Kingdom as a whole to implement the verdict," which he hailed as "vindication" of his innocence.

The Working Group said it "requested Sweden and the United Kingdom to assess the situation of Mr. Assange to ensure his safety and physical integrity, to facilitate the exercise of his right to freedom of movement in an expedient manner."

However, both Sweden and the UK rejected the non-binding legal opinion, saying it "changes nothing". UK’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond termed the opinion "ridiculous" while Sweden said the panel had no right to "interfere."

UN to contest ruling
London: UK yesterday announced it would formally contest the opinion of the UN panel. The UK Foreign Office issued a statement, saying: “Julian Assange has never been arbitrarily detained by the UK…He is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy. 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 him to Sweden.” 

Ecuador asks for compensation
London: Ecuador asked for a compensation for housing Assange in its London embassy. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa said the declaration by the UN panel shows that they were right. Correa claimed that maintaining security at the embassy has been expensive and there were a lot of spying attempts. 

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