Wik­iLeaks’ As­sange should be al­lowed to go free: UN panel

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange should be al­lowed to go free from the Ecuado­rian em­bassy in Lon­don and be awarded com­pen­sa­tion for what amounts to a three-anda-half-year ar­bi­trary de­ten­tion, a U.N. panel ruled on Fri­day.

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.

"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." As­sange, 44, de­nies al­le­ga­tions of a 2010 rape in Swe­den, say­ing the charge is a ploy that would even­tu­ally take him to the United States where a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ac­tiv­i­ties of Wik­iLeaks is still open.

Swe­den said it has no such plans. As­sange had said that if he lost the ap­peal then he would leave his cramped quar­ters at the em­bassy in the Knightsbridge area of Lon­don, though Bri­tain said he would be ar­rested and ex­tra­dited to Swe­den as soon as he stepped out­side.

The de­ci­sion in his favour marks the lat­est twist in a tu­mul­tuous jour­ney for As­sange since he in­censed Wash­ing­ton with leaks that laid bare of­ten highly crit­i­cal U.S. ap­praisals of world lead­ers from Vladimir Putin to the Saudi royal fam­ily.

In 2010, the group re­leased over 90,000 se­cret doc­u­ments on the U.S.led mil­i­tary cam­paign in Afghanistan, fol­lowed by al­most 400,000 U.S. mil­i­tary re­ports de­tail­ing op­er­a­tions in Iraq. Those dis­clo­sures were fol­lowed by re­lease of mil­lions of diplo­matic cables dat­ing back to 1973.

The U.N. Work­ing Group does not have the au­thor­ity to or­der the re­lease of a de­tainee - and Fri­day's rul­ing in un­likely to change the le­gal is­sues fac­ing As­sange - but it has con­sid­ered many high-pro­file cases and its back­ing car­ries a moral weight that puts pres­sure on gov­ern­ments.

Re­cent high-pro­file cases sub­mit- ted to the U.N. panel in­clude that of jailed for­mer Mal­dives Pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Nasheed and of Wash­ing­ton Post reporter Ja­son Reza­ian, an Ira­ni­anAmer­i­can jailed in Iran un­til a pris­oner swap last month. But gov­ern­ments have fre­quently brushed aside its find­ings such as a rul­ing on Myan­mar's house ar­rest of op­po­si­tion leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2008, a call in 2006 for the Iraqi govern­ment not to hang for­mer dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein, and fre­quent pleas for the clo­sure of the U.S. mil­i­tary prison at Guan­tanamo Bay."This changes noth­ing. We com­pletely re­ject any claim that Ju­lian As­sange is a vic­tim of ar­bi­trary de­ten­tion. The UK has al­ready made clear to the UN that we will for­mally con­test the work­ing group's opin­ion," a Bri­tish govern­ment spokesman said.

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