WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will demand that he be allowed to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London a free man, after a U.N. panel ruled on Friday he was detained arbitrarily there.
Assange, who enraged the United States by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, has been holed up in the embassy since 2012 to avoid a rape investigation.
Assange appealed to the U.N. panel, saying he was a political refugee whose rights had been infringed by being unable to take up asylum in Ecuador. The panel of five independent experts ruled in Assange's favor on Friday.
The former computer hacker denies allegations of a 2010 rape in Sweden, saying the charge is a ploy that would eventually take him to the United States where a criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks is still open.
Britain said it had never arbitrarily detained Assange and that the Australian had voluntarily avoided arrest by jumping bail to flee to the embassy.
Both Sweden and Britain said they would not be bound by the panel's ruling.
But Assange, 44, said in a short statement posted on Twitter: "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."
He had said that if he lost the appeal then he would leave his cramped quarters at the embassy in the Knightsbridge area of London, though Britain said he would be arrested and extradited to Sweden as soon as he stepped outside.
The decision in his favour marks the latest twist in a tumultuous journey for Assange since he incensed Washington with his leaks that laid bare often highly critical U.S. appraisals of world leaders from Vladimir Putin to the Saudi royal family.
While the ruling - which will be published on Friday - may draw attention to Assange's fate, it is unlikely to immediately affect the current investigations against him.
The U.N. Working Group does not have the authority to order the release of a detainee, but it has considered many high-profile cases and its backing carries a moral weight that puts pressure on governments.