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Assange will 'accept arrest' if he loses UN verdict tomorrow

He could soon walk out of London's Ecuadorian Embassy.

It had to happen eventually, right? WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has announced that he will walk out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London if a United Nations panel rules against him tomorrow. "Should the UN announce tomorrow that I have lost my case against the UK 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," he said in a statement on Twitter. "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 Australian has been cooped up in the building since June 2012. Authorities in Sweden wish to question him on sexual assault allegations -- Assange sought protection because he believes, once he's in the hands of British or Swedish law enforcers, he'll be extradited to the US. There he could face prosecution for document leaks that have occurred on WikiLeaks. Swedish prosecutors dropped part of their investigation into sexual assault allegations last August -- the deadline for bringing charges had expired, and they needed an interview to do so -- but they still seek a meeting to question him over an outstanding rape allegation.

Assange has filed an "urgent request for relief" to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, claiming that he is being illegally detained. He says he's being deprived of fundamental liberties inside the building such as fresh air and adequate medical facilities. More importantly, he argues, he's unable to access the "full intended benefit of the grant of asylum by Ecuador," and that this denial has become "cumulatively harsh and disproportionate." Assange also contests the legality of his predicament, arguing that UK laws and procedure have changed to the point where he should no longer be liable to extradition.

The United Nations panel is expected to give a verdict on Friday (February 5th) morning -- and the BBC reports that it's going to be in Assange's favour. If the appeal is thrown out, however, and the 44-year-old walks out of the embassy, it'll trigger some legal dominoes that have been stacking up during his asylum. Right now, it's hard to tell exactly what will happen if and when the WikiLeaks chief walks out the door -- all we know for certain is that many eyes will be watching at noon tomorrow.

Update: It sounds like the United Nations panel is going to rule in Assange's favour. Or at least, that's what the AP has heard from Sweden's foreign ministry. We'll wait for official confirmation tomorrow.

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