Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Sweden drops Assange rape case investigation

Sweden drops Assange rape case investigation

His children had grown up without him, he said.

Julian Assange says Sweden's decision to drop a rape inveatigation against him is "an important victory for me and for the United Nations human rights system". "The proper war is just commencing". The arrangement was necessary, he had said, to keep Swedish authorities from turning him over to the United States for his role at the helm of WikiLeaks, which has enraged governments around the world by publishing tens of thousands of leaked classified US documents.

Ecuador's foreign minister, Guillaume Long, tweeted Friday that Britain "must now grant safe passage" to Assange. Long added: "This has gone on long enough".

On Friday afternoon, Assange appeared on a balcony at the embassy and described the development as "an important victory".

Assange has said that all the sex was consensual.

Shortly afterward, he lodged his request for asylum in Ecuador and fled to the country's embassy in London. "Finally we got there".

"It is a scandal that a suspected rapist can escape justice and thereby avoid the courts", the lawyer, Elisabeth Fritz, told AFP in an email.

Julian Assange's lawyer is asking French president Emmanuel Macron to intervene in support of the WikiLeaks founder.

"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 is the only political prisoner in Western Europe".

Dropping the investigation is not a result of deciding he is not guilty, Ny added - it's because there's no practical way to continue it.

Sweden's chief prosecutor Marianne Ny told a news conference in Sweden that the decision to discontinue the preliminary investigation into the rape allegations, which date back to 2010, had been made because "all possibilities to advance the investigation have now been exhausted".

She said the case could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations expires in 2020.

The prosecutor, Marianne Ny, told a news conference in Stockholm that she could make no judgment on Assange's guilt or innocence.

Despite Friday's announcement by Swedish prosecutors, Assange, who is still the subject of a United Kingdom arrest warrant, acknowledged he is unlikely to walk out of the embassy any time soon. "My assessment is the transfer can not be carried out in a foreseeable future". However, British police say Assange still faces arrest for jumping bail if he leaves the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

It's not known if USA officials have asked British police to arrest Assange because of a possible sealed US indictment against him.

In a statement, the London Metropolitan Police said: "Westminster Magistrates' Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange following him failing to surrender to the court on the 29 June 2012".

But London's Metropolitan Police added that Assange is now wanted for a "much less serious offense" than the original sex crimes claims, so police "will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offense".

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).

WikiLeaks says the ball is now in Britain's court after Sweden's decision to drop its rape investigation of Julian Assange.

Assange also lashed out at Sweden for taking seven years to investigate allegations he maintained were baseless.

Swedish judges had also refused to take into account the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which in February 2016 said Assange was effectively "arbitrarily detained" by Sweden and Britain and called for the arrest warrant to be annulled.

After the Swedish announcement.

WikiLeaks tweeted after the Swedish announcement: "UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a United States extradition warrant for Julian Assange". It is not clear if that may change now that the investigation has been dropped.

Julian Assange has signalled he will remain inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London despite the Swedish authorities suddenly dropping a seven-year investigation against him. She said the WikiLeaks founder had "tried to dodge all attempts at arrest" by British and Swedish authorities. According to USA Today, he has denied these allegations and been living at the Ecuadorean embassy in London for five years, where he was granted diplomatic asylum in 2012.

Authorities in the United States have prepared charges to seek his arrest, U.S. officials familiar with the matter told CNN last month.

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