The Latest: Assange hails 'victory' from embassy balcony

AP News
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Posted: Feb 05, 2016 12:06 PM
The Latest: Assange hails 'victory' from embassy balcony

GENEVA (AP) — The Latest on the U.N. panel's determination that Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained (all times local):

6:05 p.m.

Julian Assange has addressed supporters from the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, calling a U.N. panel's findings "a historic victory."

He said "this is a decision under international humanitarian law." In a reference to British and Swedish authorities, he warned that "there will be criminal consequences" for parties that breach international human rights treaties.

The WikiLeaks founder has not left the embassy since June 2012, when he took shelter there to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning about sexual assault allegations made by two women.

To cheers from a small crowd of supporters — and shouts from a lone heckler — Assange accused British, Swedish and American authorities of denying his children their father.

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5:05 p.m.

The lawyer for the Swedish woman who Julian Assange is accused of raping says the U.N. panel apparently has "a lack of understanding" that rape "is one of the most serious abuses and violations of human rights."

Elisabeth Massi Fritz says she is "relieved" that the panel's ruling that Assange has been arbitrarily detained "is not legally binding."

In a statement to the AP she said it is "insulting and offensive" toward her client and the rights of all crime victims to suggest that a man who is suspected of rape should be compensated for intentionally withholding himself from the judicial system for more than five years.

She says Assange should "pack his bags, leave the embassy and start cooperating with the police and the prosecutor."

She said it was "important to remember that Assange had violated the law and is willfully defying the courts' decisions."

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3:55 p.m.

The Swedish government says it rejects the finding of a U.N. panel that Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained.

Anders Ronquist, legal chief at Sweden's foreign ministry, says Assange voluntarily entered the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in 2012, and "is not being deprived of his liberty there due to any decision or action taken by the Swedish authorities."

Assange fears extradition to Sweden would lead to him being sent to the United States to face charges over WikiLeaks' publication of secret U.S. documents.

But in a reply to the U.N. group, Ronquist said Sweden has not received any extradition request from American authorities.

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3:05 p.m.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino has reacted to the U.N. panel report by renewing calls for Britain and Sweden to free the WikiLeaks founder.

He told the Telesur network Friday that "it's time that they free Julian Assange."

He says the decision "shows clearly that we are talking about political persecution."

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2:50 p.m.

A member of the U.N. panel that has called for Julian Assange to be freed says the WikiLeaks founder has been in "arbitrary detention" too long and is challenging Britain and Sweden to uphold their international commitments.

Roland Adjovi was one of three out of four members of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention who wrote an 18-page opinion released Friday that said Assange should be allowed to leave freely from self-imposed hiding at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

Adjovi, a native of Benin and an international law professor at Arcadia University near Philadelphia, said in a phone interview that the panel believed it was "not good" that Assange had spent five years without a formal indictment from Swedish prosecutors.

Adjovi said the panel operates on the authority of the U.N.-supported Human Rights Committee, which has the backing of Britain and Sweden. "What's the point of having a dispute-resolution mechanism, if they don't want to comply with the outcome?"

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1:55 p.m.

Former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon says Julian Assange's lack of freedom is worse than prison and to detain him further might amount to torture.

Garzon, who represents the WikiLeaks founder, says "every right that could be violated was violated" and the U.N. convention on torture "might be applicable" to Assange's situation.

He said Swedish authorities should cancel their arrest warrant for Assange immediately.

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1:40 p.m.

Former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon says Sweden and the U.K. are bound to abide by a U.N. panel's finding that Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained.

Garzon, who is part of Assange's legal team, says that as members of the U.N. the two countries must respect the findings of the U.N.

He says both countries cooperated with the panel and it is "absurd" for them to ignore its decision because it went against them.

The two nations say the findings have no legal force.

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1:25 p.m.

Julian Assange says a U.N. panel's finding that he has been arbitrarily detained is a "vindication."

The WikiLeaks founder says it is "now a matter of settled law" that he has been wrongly detained.

Assange spoke to journalists by video from the London embassy of Ecuador, where he has been holed up for 3½ years to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about alleged sexual offenses.

Assange said Britain and Sweden cannot appeal the panel's finding, but Britain has already indicated it will challenge.

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1:20 p.m.

A lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says a U.N. panel finding shows that he has been subjected to "mental torture."

Melinda Taylor said part of his arbitrary detention has included round-the-clock covert and overt surveillance while seeking refuge at the Embassy of Ecuador in London.

She said Friday his rights have been repeatedly violated and that Sweden and Britain have to "step up to the plate" and set him free."

1:10 p.m.

A lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says the finding of a U.N. panel represents a "resounding victory" for Assange.

Jennifer Robinson praised the panel's finding that Assange has been a victim of arbitrary detention and should be freed.

Assange has sought refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador in London since 2012 to avoid questioning in Sweden on allegations of sexual misconduct.

Robinson said Assange has exercised his legal rights in a lawful manner.

She called the decision "incredibly important."

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11:55 a.m.

One of Julian Assange's lawyers in Sweden says the country "has no other option but to submit itself to" the opinion of a U.N. human rights panel.

Thomas Olsson says Sweden — where Assange is wanted for questioning over allegations of rape in 2010 — has "committed itself to the rules and decisions that exist in the U.N. human rights charter."

Olsson welcomed the ruling that Assange has been arbitrarily detained, which he called "a pretty positive message," adding it was "totally in line with the argumentation we have presented."

He said time should be given to the Swedish prosecutor in charge of the case, who was traveling on Friday, "to analyze this ruling . and then take a decision

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11:20 a.m.

One of four voting members of a U.N. panel disagreed with the majority opinion that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be freed from "arbitrary detention" — an unusual show of dissent on the panel.

U.N. human rights office official Christophe Peschoux said the dissenter was Vladimir Tochilovsky, a Ukrainian member of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

The 3-1 vote in the case came after an Australian member of the five-person panel recused herself from the proceedings because she shares the same nationality as Assange.

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10:15 a.m.

Britain's Foreign Office has rejected the United Nations panel's finding that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a victim of arbitrary detention.

Officials said in a statement Friday morning that Britain will formally contest the working group's opinion issued earlier in Geneva.

The statement says Britain is "deeply frustrated" by the Assange situation.

"The opinion of the U.N. working group ignores the facts and the well-recognized protections of the British legal system," the statement says. "He is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy."

The statement points out that an allegation of rape is still outstanding and that a European Arrest Warrant is in place.

It says Britain has a legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden for questioning.

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9:35 a.m.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority says the call from the U.N. working group for Julian Assange to be released and compensated "has no formal impact on the ongoing investigation, according to Swedish law."

Spokeswoman Karin Rosander said the prosecutor responsible for the case is traveling and has not yet been able to comment on the case.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy since 2012 to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden, from where he fears he would be sent to the United States.

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9:25 a.m.

A U.N. human rights panel says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been "arbitrarily detained" by Britain and Sweden since December 2010.

The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said his detention should end and he should be entitled to compensation.

Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange over allegations of rape stemming from a working visit he made to the country in 2010 when WikiLeaks was attracting international attention for its secret-spilling ways.

Assange has consistently denied the allegations but declined to return to Sweden to meet with prosecutors and eventually sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has lived since June 2012.