The Latest: Legal expert questions reported Assange ruling

AP News
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Posted: Feb 04, 2016 12:38 PM
The Latest: Legal expert questions reported Assange ruling

LONDON (AP) — The Latest on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and impending finding by a U.N. body on his detention (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

The Swedish prosecution authority says a reported U.N. panel's decision that Julian Assange is in "arbitrary detention" at the Ecuadorean embassy has no formal importance for the Swedish criminal investigation.

The authority said in a statement Thursday that the Swedish prosecutor responsible for the case is currently traveling and has not had a chance to study the latest developments.

It said it will communicate "if any new information in the case emerges."

It pointed out that Sweden's Supreme Court studied the circumstances of the case in May 2015 and decided the arrest warrant for Assange should remain in place.

It said the prosecutor has attempted to question Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy since March last year but has been unable to do so because Ecuadorean authorities haven't permitted it.

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5:50 p.m.

A Swedish professor of international law says he is very surprised by a reported U.N. panel decision that Julian Assange's detention is "arbitrary."

The panel is expected to formally announce its decision on Friday, but Sweden says it has been informed of the decision and that it was in the WikiLeaks founder's favor.

Stockholm University's Ove Bring says he thinks Assange's situation "is definitely not a case of unlawful detention" since Assange himself has chosen to stay at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012.

Bring says Assange could at any time have agreed to be questioned in Sweden about the rape allegations against him, after which the prosecutor most probably would have been forced to abandon the case because of a lack of evidence.

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5:25 p.m.

A U.N. official says Sweden was informed last month of a U.N. panel's decision on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

While the panel hasn't officially released its decision, Sweden's foreign ministry said Thursday that the advisory group had concluded that Assange has been a victim of "arbitrary" detention at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he sought refuge in 2012.

Without saying what the panel's decision was, Christophe Peschoux of the U.N. human rights office said that the Swedish mission in Geneva was informed of the finding on Jan. 22. Swedish prosecutors haven't charged Assange with any crime, but want to question him over sexual misconduct allegations.

Peschoux said the application of the panel's decisions were "rarely immediate" and could take weeks or months to be applied. Plus, governments have up to two months after being notified to appeal a unfavorable ruling — directly back to the working group. There is no higher authority in such cases.

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4:45 p.m.

A lawyer for Julian Assange says that if a U.N. panel decides that the WikiLeaks founder has been arbitrarily detained, then Sweden has no other option but to revoke an arrest warrant that could allow him to walk free from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

The U.N. panel won't formally announce its decision until Friday, but Sweden's foreign ministry said Thursday that the body had decided in Assange's favor despite the Swedish government's objections.

Swedish prosecutors haven't charged Assange with any crime but want to question him over sexual misconduct allegations.

Per E. Samuelsson, a Swedish lawyer for Assange, told The Associated Press that if the panel's decision goes his way, prosecutors should "revoke" the arrest warrant and "set him free."

Samuelsson added that "if it happens that way, it will be a victory." Assange sought refuge in the embassy in 2012.

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2:55 p.m.

Sweden's foreign ministry says that a U.N. panel has concluded that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's detention is "arbitrary."

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Katarina Byrenius Roslund told The Associated Press that Sweden had seen the report and the Geneva-based panel concluded that it "was an arbitrary detention."

Roslund says "it is a different assessment than what the Swedish authorities have made," adding she had no further comments.

Assange has spent more than three years holed up inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London after Sweden sought to question him on sexual misconduct allegations.

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1:50 p.m.

A lawyer working with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he may seek safe passage to Ecuador if he leaves the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in coming days.

The lawyer, Melinda Taylor, told The Associated Press Thursday that Assange's decision will be shaped by how Swedish and British authorities respond to a United Nations panel report on Assange's treatment expected Friday.

She said Assange seeks guarantees that he will not be extradited to the United States to face possible charges there. It is not clear if he is sought by U.S. authorities.

Taylor says seeking safe passage to Ecuador is one option because he has been granted political asylum in that South American country.

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1:20 p.m.

A British lawmaker says police have a "legal obligation" to arrest and extradite Julian Assange under the terms of a European Arrest Warrant.

Alistair Carmichael, of the small Liberal Democrats party, says it is vital for the government to follow through on this warrant and extradite Assange to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about alleged sexual misconduct.

Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy but says he may turn himself in to police if a United Nations panel rejects his case when its report is published Friday.

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11:50 a.m.

British police have said they still plan to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange if he leaves the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

Police said Thursday that earlier announced plans to take Assange into custody on an outstanding arrest warrant were still in place.

That announcement was made in October when police removed the round-the-clock guard at the embassy, but said overt and covert means would still be used against Assange.

He is wanted by Swedish authorities for questioning on allegations of sexual misconduct.

A U.N. panel is to rule Friday on whether the treatment of Assange has been fair.

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5:10 a.m.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he will accept arrest by British police if a U.N. working group on arbitrary detention decides that the three years he has spent holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy does not amount to illegal detention.

Writing on WikiLeaks' Twitter account Wednesday night, Assange said if the U.N. finds he has lost his case against the United Kingdom and Sweden then he will turn himself into police at noon on Friday.

"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," Assange added.

Assange took refuge in Ecuador's British embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden where two women have accused him of sexual assault.