Julian Assange within the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2014.
John Stillwell—AFP/Getty Images
By Julia Zorthian
Updated: February 4, 2016 10:22 AM ET

The United Nations panel deciding whether Julian Assange is being arbitrarily held in London will rule in the Wikileaks founder’s favor on Friday, according to the Swedish Foreign Ministry.

Assange, 44, took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London three and a half years, fearing he faced arrest and extradition to Sweden on a rape charge. If he leaves the embassy, it is likely he would be arrested soon after. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is set to announce its non-legally-binding decision on Feb. 5.

Swedish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Katarina Byrenius Roslund told the AP that Sweden had seen the report early and it had declared Assange’s detention arbitrary. The BBC also reported that the U.N. panel would rule the detention arbitrary, but did not provide its source for the information.

Assange and his representation filed a complaint to the U.N. working group in September 2014 over his inability to leave the embassy without facing extradition to Sweden, despite Ecuador granting him asylum in June 2012. “The only way for Mr. Assange to enjoy his right to asylum is to be in detention,” the complaint said. “This is not a legally acceptable choice.”

The British Foreign Office said said in a statement: “We have been consistently clear that Mr Assange has never been arbitrarily detained by the U.K. but is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorian embassy. An allegation of rape is still outstanding and a European arrest warrant in place, so the U.K. continues to have a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden.”

On Thursday, Assange announced on Twitter that he would leave the embassy and turn himself in on Friday if the UN ruled against him.

Assange continued, “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.”

[BBC]

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