Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Swedish prosecutor drops rape investigation of Julian Assange

Sweden has dropped its rape investigation into Julian Assange.

Although Sweden has dropped its investigation of rape allegations against Assange, British police say they still intend to arrest him on a charge of jumping bail if he leaves the Ecuadorean Embassy.

Assange, who has always denied wrongdoing, has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, in an effort to avoid a Swedish arrest warrant. Assange has indicated concerns that he may face indictm.

The Stockholm appeals court rejects a request by Assange to lift the arrest warrant in light of the United Nations panel's non-binding legal opinion.

"But it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge under house arrest and nearly five years here in this embassy without sunlight", Assange said.

"He's an innocent man and this case has been closed", he said, adding that Assange was "very unhappy" about the long inquiry.

President Trump last month said he would support any decision by the Justice Department to charge Assange. "Focus now moves to United Kingdom".

In April, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Assange's arrest was a US "priority".

British officials said they do not comment on individual extradition cases.

Ecuador's foreign minister, Guillaume Long, tweeted Friday that Britain "must now grant safe passage" to Assange.

Before his balcony appearance on Friday, Assange, now 45, took to Twitter to share an an old image of himself smiling.

"Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence". There were initially two separate allegations being investigated, but one was dropped in 2015 because the statute of limitations ran out. Prosecutor Eva Finne says there appears to be insufficient evidence for allegation of rape. Prosecutors were trying to determine, among other things, if Assange had sex with the woman while she was asleep and without using a condom.

Assange has said that all the sex was consensual.

Sweden's top prosecutor says the investigation of alleged sexual offenses could reopened if Julian Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in 2020.

Ny told a news conference in Stockholm: "He has tried to dodge all attempts to avoid Swedish and British legal authorities. He has been critical that it has lasted that long", Per E Samuelsson, his lawyer in Sweden, told Swedish Radio.

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". The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy.

British police said despite Sweden's decision to drop the rape investigation, Assange still faces arrest if he leaves Ecuador's embassy in London.

"The MPS will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence", the Met said in a statement. It has been an expensive standoff: Assange's first three-year stay in the Ecuadorean embassy alone cost the British taxpayers £11.1 million ($14.4 million).

Some 500,000 classified military documents concerning American diplomacy and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had already been released by Wikileaks in July and October, 2010, respectively. WikiLeaks also had a provocative role in the 2016 USA presidential campaign when it published emails written by Hillary Clinton campaign officials.

Assange added that WikiLeaks would continue regardless of "the threats towards me and my staff" before hailing the release of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who provided classified information to WikiLeaks in 2010.

WikiLeaks claims "victory" after then U.S. president Barack Obama commutes the sentence of Chelsea Manning, a soldier who leaked a huge amount of defence department files published by WikiLeaks, and who is released on May 17.

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