Amidst the sorrow and joy from various camps over the results of the UK referendum on leaving the European Union (EU), one party is pleased at least – controversial whistleblowing platform WikiLeaks says Brexit should help its founder Julian Assange to be able to finally leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
"#Brexit means the scrapping of the European Arrest Warrant used as the excuse to detain Assange without charge in the UK for 5.5 years," WikiLeaks posted on its official Twitter account at 8am BST after news about the referendum results broke.
Assange has been hiding out at the Embassy of Ecuador since June 2012 after claiming diplomatic asylum to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he faces allegations of rape and sexual assault by two WikiLeaks volunteers.
He is unwilling to leave the embassy as he feels he will not be granted a fair trial, but will instead be prosecuted for publishing documents that show proof of mass surveillance, corruption or government cover-ups around the world.
"Yes I am in favour of Brexit. I have personally seen this government repeatedly use the EU as political cover for its own decision-making. It launders things to the EU and then claims that it can't do anything about it," Assange told Robert Peston on ITV's political interview TV programme Peston on Sunday on 12 June.
"For example, the European arrest warrant. We think that here in the UK we have a right to a fair trial, that includes evidence of judges and charges, but in my case we don't have any of that, and it's not just me. Many people in the UK have been affected by that. That's a fundamental basis of sovereignty – random officials from the European Union can't suddenly force your police to arrest people.
"Cameron says in relation to my situation that there's nothing he can do, that it's not the decision of his government to have this extremely expensive siege over the last four years – rather he's forced to do it by the EU. The worst elements of the EU have been pushed by the UK, so essentially, the UK is bad for the EU and the EU is bad for the UK because it permits a lack of democratic accountability in this country."
Does Brexit really help Julian Assange's case?
WikiLeaks believes that now the UK is to leave the EU, this means that the arrest warrant therefore will be removed and Brexit will "set Julian Assange free". If the UK is independent, it will not need to be a part of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) framework, implemented in 2003, which is an extradition agreement between 28 European territories including Sweden, which issued the warrant for Assange.
Assange is wanted on suspicion of rape as well as three cases of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. Three of the allegations, which pertain to sexual assault, have had to be dropped because the statute of limitation has expired on them, but Swedish authorities continue to investigate him for the more serious allegation of rape.
The UK already has extradition agreements in place with over 100 territories around the world, so even if it were out of the EU, it is unlikely that the UK would deny a request from Sweden to extradite Assange and refuse to sign a new separate extradition agreement with the country. Sweden has until 2020 to investigate the rape allegation, which means that Assange would need to stay in the Ecuadorian Embassy for another four years, even though by that time presumably the UK would have left the EU.
Twitter users don't seem to be particularly impressed with Wikileaks' announcement on what many are calling Black Friday: