A United Nations panel is to rule Julian Assange, founder of the Wikileaks website, is being “arbitrarily detained” in Britain.
The 44-year old has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for the last three years, with UK police mounting round-the-clock surveillance outside the building.
In a perceived victory for Wikileaks supporters, a United Nations working group on arbitrary detention will release its report on Friday, with a ruling for Assange widely expected.
The British government, however, says the ruling would be non-binding – and any attempt by Assange to leave the embassy will be met with his arrest.
The British Foreign Office said in a statement: “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 Mr Assange to Sweden.”
Mr Assange had ramped up the pressure earlier this week when he released a statement on the expected ruling. In it, he wrote he would accept arrest by British authorities should he lose his appeal at the UN.
If he won, however, he expected the “immediate return” of his passport and the “termination of further attempts” to arrest him.
Assange himself has voiced fears over a US extradition order, which charges him with espionage. Should he face charges in Sweden, he reasons, it’s likely the United States will attempt to extradite him to face more serious charges there.
Wikileaks has been embroiled in controversy since its inception. The site has published secret diplomatic cables, anonymous leaks and classified information, shining a light on the world of international relations, conflict and espionage.
Mr Assange, an Australian journalist, internet activist and publisher, is wanted for questioning in Sweden over one count of “lesser-degree rape.” He denies all allegations.