UN group seeks Assange's release from UK jail



The UN working group on arbitrary detention (WGAD) on Friday called for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be released from prison and slammed the UK government for breaching his human rights.

Assange was handed a jail term of 50 weeks on Wednesday for violating bail conditions in 2012 when he sought political asylum in the London's Ecuadorian Embassy.

The WGAD said in a statement that "it was deeply concerned by the "disproportionate sentence" imposed on Assange for violating the terms of his bail, which it described as a "minor violation".

This group has twice previously called for Assange to be freed.

"The working group regrets that the government has not complied with its opinion and has now furthered the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Assange," the group said in the statement.

"It is worth recalling that the detention and the subsequent bail of Assange in the UK were connected to preliminary investigations initiated in 2010 by a prosecutor in Sweden. It is equally worth noting that that prosecutor did not press any charges against Assange and that in 2017, after interviewing him in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, she discontinued investigations and brought an end to the case.

"The working group is further concerned that Assange has been detained since April 11, 2019 in Belmarsh prison, a high-security prison, as if he were convicted for a serious criminal offence. This treatment appears to contravene the principles of necessity and proportionality envisaged by the human rights standards," the statement read.

The WGAD "reiterated its recommendation to the government of the UK that the right of Assange to personal liberty should be restored".

Meanwhile, Assange appeared in the court on Thursday via video link from Belmarsh as he began a legal fight against extradition to the US, where he is wanted on charges relating to the publication of secret US files leaked by US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who was subsequently jailed.

They included approximately 90,000 reports about the war in Afghanistan, 400,000 Iraq war reports and 800,000 Guantánamo Bay detainee assessments as well as US diplomatic cables. IANS