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British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood attended the Ecuadorian embassy in London on 4 February, posing for photographers with her passport before visiting her friend and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange inside. Assange's three-and-a-half-year stay at the embassy to avoid rape investigation in Sweden amounts to 'arbitrary detention', a United Nations panel is set to officially rule on 5 February.
Assange, a former computer hacker who has been holed up in the embassy since June 2012, told the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that he was a political refugee whose rights had been infringed by being unable to take up asylum in Ecuador. He denies allegations of rape in 2010 and has portrayed them as a ploy to have him eventually sent to the United States, where he fears he could be put on trial over WikiLeaks' publication of classified military and diplomatic documents.
Commenting on the developments before entering the embassy, Westwood said: ''The laws in England have become convenient laws for the ruling minority, and so it's very good that the United Nations maybe can break that national conspiracy.''
Britain has said it has never arbitrarily detained Assange, and that the Australian had voluntarily avoided arrest by jumping bail to flee to the embassy. But the UN panel of outside experts has ruled in Assange's favour, Sweden has said. Speaking after her meeting with Assange, Westwood said: "I feel better having looked at him because his legal team are very optimistic. He's busy, I've talked to him and we're all waiting for the confirmation that we hope [for] – the decision of the UN," she added.
The decision in his favour marks the latest twist in a tumultuous journey for Assange, since he incensed the United States and its allies by using his WikiLeaks website to leak hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic and military cables in 2010, disclosures that often embarrassed Washington.