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

Sweden Drops Rape Probe Against Julian Assange

Sweden Drops Rape Probe Against Julian Assange

Swedish prosecutors dropped an investigation on Friday of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over a rape allegation, but British police said he would still be arrested if he left the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he has been holed up for almost five years.

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.

Police in London have said they would still be obliged to arrest Assange if he left the Ecuadorean embassy, despite the Swedish prosecutors' decision.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said Assange still faced the lesser charge of failing to surrender to a court, an offence punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine.

Melinda Taylor, a member of Assange's legal team, called attention to the US, telling NBC News that "as long as the national security prosecution continues there continues to be a risk to him". He has been there ever since, fearing that if he is arrested he might ultimately be extradited to the United States.

"If Assange went into British custody then the Swedes may well revisit their decision on proportionality, as extradition suddenly easier", he tweeted.

WikiLeaks also had a role in the 2016 USA presidential campaign when it published emails written by Hillary Clinton's campaign officials.

At a press briefing on Friday, Sweden's top prosecutor Marianne Ny said that by remaining in the embassy in London Assange had evaded the exercise of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) that would have seen him extradited to Sweden.

Assange and WikiLeaks have repeatedly infuriated US officials with the widespread release of sensitive secret documents related to military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and diplomatic relations around the world.

The Australian, who has lived inside the embassy for nearly five years, said the "road is far from over", adding it was "extremely regretful" he was still being threatened with arrest if he leaves the embassy.

Mr Assange said the United Kingdom had refused to confirm or deny whether there is a warrant from the US for his extradition, insisting he was happy to talk to the US Justice Department.

Friday's announcement means Assange is no longer under any investigation in Sweden.

The UK government declined to comment Friday on whether the US has asked for Assange's extradition, but last month US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Assange's arrest was a "priority".

Manning was released on Wednesday after spending seven years in a US military prison for passing the documents to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks complained about the lack of clarity in Assange's legal situation.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says his legal team will contact United Kingdom officials to seek a way forward in resolving in resolving his status. "Focus now moves to United Kingdom".

Assange always denied the allegations against him, saying sex was consensual. They surfaced after the women accused Assange of sexual misconduct during a visit to Stockholm in 2010.

Assange is a cyber hero to some for exposing government abuses of power and championing free speech, but to others he is a criminal who has undermined the security of the West.

However, if Assange were to return to Sweden before the statute of limitations for the suspected offenses expires in August 2020, the investigation could be reopened, she said. "Therefore the investigation is discontinued".

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).

Keyton reported from Stockholm.

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