Sweden drops Julian Assange rape investigation

Frederick Owens
May 20, 2017

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.

Assange, 45, took refuge in the embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over the rape allegation, which he denies. Assange believes the United States wants him extradited and arrested in connection with WikiLeaks' publication of classified US documents.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has suggested that the arrest of Assange could be an American priority, saying last month the USA was "stepping up our efforts on all leaks".

He has been living at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, where he sought refuge as he feared he would be arrested in Sweden on the rape charge and extradited to the USA as he is wanted for revealing secret government documents.

After the news was announced, WikiLeaks tweeted that the "focus now moves to the UK", saying the country had "refused to confirm or deny whether it has already received a USA extradition warrant for Julian Assange".

Considering that all possibilities to take the investigation further have been exhausted it no longer appears "proportional to uphold the decision about detention of Julian Assange in absentia and maintaining the European detention order".

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 the former US Army intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning. Juan Branco told The Associated Press in Paris that he wants Macron to help Assange leave the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

WikiLeaks has generated global controversy by publishing confidential and damaging information from the United States and other countries.

It remains unclear how the development will affect Assange's risk of being extradited to the United States if he leaves the embassy and is arrested.

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

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"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", British police said.

Mr Assange has always denied the rape allegation.

"This is a total victory for us", Assange's lawyer Per Samuelson said. He said Assange had convinced Swedish prosecutors during a November meeting previous year that he was not guilty of any sex offenses.

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

Mr. Assange has said that he met his accuser in August 2010 during a trip to Sweden.

Samuelson said Sweden's judicial system "spoiled and wasted five, six years of his life. but he is happy today".

Prime Minister Theresa May earlier said any extradition case would be looked at on a "case-by-case basis". It is not clear if that may change now that the investigation has been dropped.

The transgender former U.S. intelligence analyst left Fort Leavenworth on Wednesday, months after Barack Obama commuted her 35-year sentence as one of his final acts as President.

Russia's role remains the subject of multiple investigations by congressional intelligence committees and the FBI, which has said it's looking into whether any associates of Trump had contact or colluded with Russian government operatives.

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).

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