- Sweden’s prosecution has dropped rape charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after holding him in custody ‘in absentia’ for the past 7 years.
- Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 fearing that his arrest might result in extradition to the US, and a US trial over the leaks of hundreds of thousands of classified documents of the American government.
- Regardless of the ‘victory’ for Assange, as his Swedish lawyer called it, the Australian national seems to be unable to leave Ecuador’s Embassy immediately for fear of arrest.
- Assange is still accused of breaching his bail conditions in the UK for fleeing to Ecuador’s Embassy.
- British police have declared that they are still obliged to arrest him.
- UK has refused to confirm or deny if it has received an extradition warrant for Assange from the US.
Prosecutors in Sweden have decided to terminate the rape investigation against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which has dragged on for the past seven years.
45-year-old Australian national Julian Assange has lived in Ecuador’s Embassy in London since 2012 in order to avoid extradition to the United States if sent to Sweden over the rape charges.
Assange could face trial in the US for having leaking hundreds of thousands of classified US government documents such as diplomatic cables.
He has always denied the rape accusations against him. Six months ago, he was questioned by an Ecuadorian prosecutor on questions provided by Swedish officials in the presence of Swedish prosecutor Ingrid Isgren in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Assange had been remanded in custody by Sweden “in absentia” since the rape allegation emerged back in 2010 when he was accused of having unprotected sex with a woman while she was asleep even though she had earlier refused to have sex without a condom.
The statute of limitations on the rape allegation was due to expire in August 2020. In August 2015, the five-year statute of limitations expired on a further sexual assault probe into Assange concerning another Swedish woman.
Sweden’s decision to drop the rape investigation against Assange comes against the backdrop of the release from prison of WikiLeaks’ possibly most important whistleblower, Chelsea Manning, who leaked over 700,000 secret US government documents back in 2010.
Sweden’s Director of Public Prosecutions Marianne Ny dropped on Friday the rape investigation into Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Ny filed a request to the Stockholm District Court to revoke Sweden’s Europe-wide arrest warrant against Assange, The Local – Sweden reported.
“Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange,” the Swedish prosecution authority said in a statement on its website.
“With the consideration that all options of moving the investigation forward are now exhausted it appears that – in light of the views expressed by the Supreme Court (Högsta domstolen) on the proportionality of remanding someone in absentia – it is no longer proportional to maintain the decision to remand Julian Assange in his absence and maintain the European arrest warrant,” Ny wrote in her notification to Stockholm District Court.
“I have therefore today lifted the decision to remand Julian Assange in his absence,” she added.
Earlier in May, a lawyer for Assange had filed a request at the Stockholm District Court that the arrest warrant be ended, arguing it should be dropped since the US has expressed a desire to charge the 45-year-old.
Assange’s Swedish lawyer declared the decision of the Swedish prosecutors to drop the rape charges as a “victory” for his client.
“It is a complete victory for Assange. He is free to leave the embassy when he wants. We have won the Assange case. He is of course happy and relieved. But he is critical over this going on for so long,” Per E Samuelson told Sveriges Radio, as cited by The Local
However, another of Assange’s lawyers, Melinda Taylor, said earlier on Friday that Sweden’s decision to drop the European arrest warrant is no indication that the WikiLeaks founded would be able to leave his refuge in Ecuador’s Embassy to the UK.
“The first thing one likely needs to do is seek guarantees from the British authorities that he won’t be seized in some other way,” she told news agency TT, as cited by The Local.
Taylor added that both British and American authorities have “consistently refused to confirm or deny” if there is a request for extradition to the US.
She reminded that Assange was also accused of breaching his bail conditions in the UK for fleeing to Ecuador’s Embassy.
Focus on UK
In a statement released on Friday, the British police confirmed it is obliged to arrest Assange should he leave the Ecuadorian Embassy.
“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. The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy,” the statement reads.
“Whilst Mr Assange was wanted on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) for an extremely serious offense, the MPS response reflected the serious nature of that crime. Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence. The MPS will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence,” it continues.
When the Swedish announcement was made on Friday, WikiLeaks commented through its Twitter account that the “focus now moves to the UK”.
Wikileaks tweeted that the “focus now moves to the UK”, saying the UK had “refused to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange”.