Sweden says does not agree with UN panel on Assange

5th February 2016, Comments 0 comments

Sweden said it did not agree with a UN panel which ruled Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's stay in Ecuador's London embassy amounted to "unlawful detention".

"The government does not agree with the assessment made by the majority of the Working Group," the foreign ministry said in a letter to the panel, adding that the body does not have the right to "interfere in an ongoing case handled by a Swedish public authority".

Swedish authorities issued a pan-European warrant in 2010 for his arrest over a rape allegation and was detained in London before being released and later seeking asylum at Ecuador's embassy.

"Mr Assange is free to leave the embassy at any point and Swedish authorities have no control over his decision to stay at the embassy," the Swedish ministry said.

"Mr Assange can therefore not be regarded as being deprived of his liberty due to any decision or action taken by the Swedish authorities."

Assange, who has been holed up at the embassy since June 2012 to avoid arrest, had said he expected British police to call off their attempts to detain him if the panel ruled in his favour.

The 44-year-old Australian fears he could be extradited to the United States be tried over the publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents by WikiLeaks.

Swedish prosecutors have tried to question Assange for more than five years.

Elizabeth Fritz, the lawyer for the woman who has accused Assange of rape, said the UN ruling was offensive to her client.

"That a man who is wanted on an arrest warrant for rape should be awarded compensation for intentionally hide from the judicial system for more than five years is offensive to my client and to the human rights of all victims of crime," she said in a statement.

Sweden's Interior Minister Anders Ygeman told news agency TT that the government had done what it could to try to resolve the deadlock.

"We have done what we could to make it possible for Swedish (prosecution) authorities to question him in the embassy, but that has not yet been possible. It's up to Ecuador and Assange now," he said.

Sweden and Ecuador reached a judicial agreement in December that Quito said was necessary to pave the way for Swedish prosecutors to question Assange.

Quito has not yet granted Swedish prosecutors access to him, instead insisting in January that an Ecuadorian prosecutor would do the questioning.

© 2016 AFP

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