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British police to arrest Assange if he leaves embassy

British authorities have said that an arrest warrant for the Wikileaks founder "is still in place." The Swedish Foreign Ministry said a UN group had decided that Assange had been arbitrarily detained.

British police on Thursday said they would arrest Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, an organization known for its whistle blowing efforts.

"The warrant is still in place. If he leaves the embassy we will make every effort to arrest him," said a spokesman for the British police.

Their statement came shortly before an announcement from the Swedish Foreign Ministry, which said that a UN panel reviewing the case had decided that Assange had been illegally detained.

Assange had previously announced the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention would decide on whether he has been in arbitrary detention after he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in June 2012. The UN group is expected to formally announce its decision on Friday.

"Should the UN announce tomorrow I have lost my case against the United Kingdom and Sweden I shall exit the embassy at noon on Friday to accept arrest by British police as there is no meaningful prospect of further appeal," Assange said in a statement on Thursday.

"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," the Wikileaks founder added.

Meanwhile, the UN group "has ruled in his favor," reported the BBC, without citing sources.

The Wikileaks Twitter account said that it was aware of the report and was waiting for confirmation from the UN group.

According to Assange's lawyer in Sweden, Per Samuelson, the Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny would have to repeal the arrest warrant if the UN decides in favor of his complaint, filed in 2014.

"My view is that he is illegally detained, and that the decision will be positive for Assange," Samuelson told DPA news agency.

Watch video 01:07

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'Scoop'

The UK government responded to the report, saying that they would adhere to the arrest warrant despite the UN's decision.

"We have been consistently clear that Mr. Assange has never been arbitrarily detained by the UK but is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorian embassy," a government spokeswoman 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," the spokeswoman added.

Meanwhile, Wikileaks criticized the UK for using the BBC, a state-run broadcaster, to "scoop" the UN and Assange.

"Note what happened today. UN [and] Assange press conferences tomorrow. UK already has verdict but not JA, public. So UK used BBC to 'scoop' UN, JA," Wikileaks' tweeted, referring to Assange by his initials.

Assange is wanted for questioning by Swedish prosecutors in connection to allegations of rape in 2010. He has maintained that the interaction was purely consensual.

The 44-year-old Australian fears that if he is taken to Sweden, he could be extradited to the US, where he is wanted for publishing sensitive documents exposing Washington's military, intelligence and diplomatic practices.

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Risks for digital whistleblowers | DW Shift

ls/kms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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