Sweden’s top prosecutor says she is dropping an investigation into a rape claim against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after nearly seven years. But some experts said the development would put him in an even more precarious legal situation, if the USA has a sealed indictment for his arrest.
But British police said they would still arrest Assange if he tried to leave the embassy, saying he had breached the terms of his bail by refusing to turn himself in when an arrest warrant was issued in 2012. “The proper war is just commencing”.
The WikiLeaks founder made a rare appearance on the balcony of the central London building to hail the decision by Sweden’s Director of Public Prosecutions as an “important victory”. The WikiLeaks founder, who has long denied the allegation, has been holed up at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012 to avoid the country’s extradition request.
The 45-year-old Australian has always denied the allegations, which he feared would see him extradited to the United States and put on trial over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. military and diplomatic documents.
Assange said Friday that “my legal staff have contacted the United Kingdom authorities and we hope to engage in a dialogue about what is the best way forward”.
Samuelsson also said that the decision meant Assange “is free to leave the embassy whenever he wants”, though he later told the TT news agency that he did not know when Assange might leave.
However, it noted that now that the Swedish authorities had dropped their investigation, Assange was “wanted for a much less serious offence” than before and said the force would “provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence”.
British police kept up a round-the-clock guard outside the embassy until December 2015, when the operation was scaled back partly because of the costs, which had exceeded 11 million pounds (over $17.5 million at the time).
He also says he would be “happy” to discuss the case with the U.S. Department of Justice despite U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying that arresting Assange is a priority.
“We will seek to put some people in jail”, Sessions said.
Despite Sweden’s decision to drop a rape investigation, British police say that Julian Assange still faces arrest if he leaves Ecuador’s London embassy.
The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates to at least 2010, when the site first gained wide attention for posting thousands of files stolen by Manning.
The news came down this morning about the Swedish Government dropping the rape investigation against Assange. “Focus now moves to United Kingdom”, the group tweeted.
British officials said they do not comment on individual extradition cases.
At a press conference in Quito, Long called on Britain allow Assange safe passage so he could take up his asylum in Ecuador. The South American country has granted him asylum, but it is not clear how Assange would travel there without the permission of British authorities.
Sweden’s top prosecutor, Marianne Ny, says she has withdrawn a European arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after concluding that it won’t be possible to bring him to Sweden. Swedish prosecutors dropped cases of alleged sexual misconduct when the statute of limitations ran out in 2015, leaving only the rape allegation.
A lawyer for the woman who alleges she was raped by Julian Assange says “it is a scandal that a suspected rapist can avoid the judicial system and thus avoid a trial in court”.
She accused him of having sex with her as she slept without using a condom despite repeatedly having denied him unprotected sex.
Assange has said that all the sex was consensual. She said prosecutors had been unable to make a full assessment of the case and were not making a finding on whether Assange was guilty of the allegations.
The Swedish Prosecution Authority said Friday that chief Marianne Ny “has chose to discontinue the investigation” and Ny said she will call back the European arrest warrant on Assange.
The statute of limitations on the rape allegation expires in August 2020.
Elisabeth Massi Fritz says her client is shocked by the Swedish decision but added that “she can’t change her view that Assange has exposed her to a rape”. “He has been critical that it has lasted that long”, Per E Samuelsson, his lawyer in Sweden, told Swedish Radio.
In a letter sent to the Swedish government on May 8, Ecuador condemned “the obvious lack of progress” in the investigation despite Assange’s questioning in the presence of the Swedish prosecutor at the embassy in November 2016.