Will Julian Assange be a free man soon? The fate of the controversial WikiLeaks founder will be known tomorrow as a British judge is scheduled to rule on Assange’s bid to compel Britain to drop a warrant for his arrest.
Should the judge rule in Assange’s favor, it will dramatically increase his chances of walking free from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, which has been his refuge the past five years. But things are more complex than they appear to be. It is not clear what Assange’s next step will be even in the face of a favorable decision.
Assange can opt to step outside the embassy for the first time since June 2012 without fears of facing questioning on the Swedish sex crime allegations, or arrest for jumping bail. But there’s always the scarier prospect of him facing a secret U.S. indictment on charges related to WikiLeaks’ disclosure of leaked classified U.S. documents. The challenge for Assange is that it’s not publicly known if he faces a U.S. indictment because of the strict secrecy rules that govern U.S. grand jury decisions. Should his fears prove to be bigger than his confidence over his ‘freedom’, Assange, even in the face of a favorable decision, may opt to remain inside the embassy for the time being.
Some prominent U.S. officials have expressed interest in prosecuting Assange, and clearly, there have been U.S-led investigations into WikiLeaks’ activities. Should the U.S. indict Assange and request for his extradition, Assange can still seek custody from Britain.
Should Assange decide to leave the embassy if he gets a favorable ruling, another appealing option for him would be to go to and settle in Ecuador. Ecuador has granted the Australian-born Assange with citizenship and asylum. The country has even tried to persuade Britain to grant Assange with a diplomatic status.
His lawyers claim that Assange is suffering from several mental and physical problems from being locked up inside the embassy for so long.
An unfavorable decision from the judge, however, would simply keep the status quo in place. The WikiLeaks founder would still face arrest for jumping bail. Still, even in the face of a courtroom defeat, Assange’s security is expected to be a lot looser than the previous round-the-clock security presence that the British police maintain outside the embassy.