WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called on Britain and Sweden on Friday to allow him to freely leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London after a UN panel ruled he had been arbitrarily detained and should be awarded compensation.
"WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the United Kingdom since his arrest in London on 7 December 2010," the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said Friday.
The five independent rights experts who make up the panel insisted Assange's detention "should be brought to an end, that his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected, and that he should be entitled to an enforceable right to compensation."
Assange (44), a computer hacker who enraged the United States by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomat cables, took refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden. Swedish prosecutors want to question him over allegations, which he denies, that he committed rape in 2010.
Speaking from the embassy in the Knightsbridge area of London via a live stream video, Assange called on Britain and Sweden to implement the UN panel's decision.
"We have today a really significant victory that has brought a smile to my face," Assange said. "It is now the task of the states of Sweden and United Kingdom to implement the UN verdict."
He had appealed to the UN panel saying he was a political refugee whose rights had been infringed for not being able to take up asylum in Ecuador.
The Swedish government on Friday rejected the conclusions of the report, saying that Assange had chosen, voluntarily, to stay at the Ecuadorian embassy where he has been since 2012.
"Swedish authorities have no control over his decision to stay there. Mr. Assange is free to leave the Embassy at any point," the government said in a statement replying to the UN panel.
On Thursday, Assange said on the WikiLeaks Twitter account he would leave the embassy in London on Friday and accept being arrested if the UN investigation into his case ruled against him.
“I will accept arrest by British police on Friday if UN rules against me,” the message read.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) February 4, 2016
Also, British Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said on Thursday that if WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves the Ecuadorian embassy in London he will be arrested.
The spokesman said that any decision by a United Nations panel that is examining Assange's appeal would not be legally binding and that an arrest warrant for Assange would be put into effect if he left the embassy.
The UN does not have enough authority to order the release of a detainee but its backing carries a moral weight that puts pressure on governments.
The UN decision had no formal impact on the rape investigations under Swedish law, prosecutors said. A US Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks is ongoing.
In 2010, WikiLeaks released over 90,000 secret documents on the US military campaign in Afghanistan, 400,000 US military reports detailing Iraq operations and the release of millions of diplomatic cables dating back to 1973.