Sweden drops rape investigation into WikiLeaks head Julian Assange

Frederick Owens
May 20, 2017

The Swedish Prosecution Authority on Friday said it dropped a rape investigation targeting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and will revoke his arrest warrant.

January 5, 2017 - Swedish prosecutors say they have received a transcript of the November questioning.

August 16 - Ecuador grants Assange political asylum.

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. He has been there ever since, fearing that if he was in custody he might ultimately be extradited 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 USA documents.

Per E. Samuelson, Assange's lawyer in Sweden, told The Associated Press that it was a "day of victory" for the WikiLeaks founder.

The panel said he should be freed and entitled to compensation. "To conduct a preliminary investigation for so many years and today make a decision to close the investigation is something I am very critical of", she said.

Barry Pollack, an attorney in Washington representing Assange, said the British should allow Assange to travel to Ecuador.

WikiLeaks tweeted: "UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a United States extradition warrant for Julian Assange".

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

"We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks", Sessions said at a press conference last month.

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

But the United Kingdom authorities indicated Friday that Assange still faces arrest there were he to leave the embassy.

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Ecuador's foreign minister, Guillaume Long, tweeted Friday that Britain "must now grant safe passage" to Assange. The South American country has granted him asylum.

The Crown Prosecution Service said that following the Swedish authorities' decision to drop the investigation, a European Arrest Warrant against him was discharged at Westminster Magistrates' Court. It is not clear if that may change now that the investigation has been dropped. His self-imprisonment came on the heels of a rape investigation against him in Sweden involving two women. 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.

Even in the case of Sweden, Ny clarified that "if he, at a later date, makes himself available, I will be able to decide to resume the investigation immediately".

According to reports, in a brief statement by the prosecutor, in this case, said: "Director of Public Prosecution, Marianne Ny, has today made a decision to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape by Julian Assange".

"Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today chose to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange", the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Possible US charges aside, Assange is still subject to an arrest warrant in the United Kingdom after he failed to surrender to Westminster Magistrates' Court in June 2012, London's Metropolitan Police Service said Friday.

Police kept up round-the-clock guard outside the embassy until past year, when the operation was scaled back. In October, WikiLeaks releases another 400,000 classified military files chronicling the war in Iraq from 2004 to 2009, the largest leak of its kind in US military history.

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

Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning served seven years in prison for giving classified material to WikiLeaks. Manning had her sentence commuted by President Obama on his way out of office and was released on Wednesday, but Assange reneged on his promise.

Katz reported from London.

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