Sweden case ‘ victory’ for Assange
Charges dropped but WikiLeaks founder still faces arrest in Britain
Sweden’s top prosecutor last night said she is dropping an investigation into a rape claim against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after almost seven years.
However, the prosecutor, Marianne Ny, told a news conference in Stockholm that the investigation of alleged sexual offences could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in 2020. And British police say he is still wanted in Britain for jumping bail in 2012.
Assange was last night still inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he has lived for nearly five years. Assange has indicated concerns that he may face indictment in the United States for his role at the helm of the WikiLeaks.
“This is a total victory for Julian Assange. He is now free to leave the embassy when he wants. We have won the Assange case. He is of course happy and relieved. He has been critical that it has lasted that long,” Per Samuelsson, his lawyer in Sweden, told Swedish Radio.
Samuelsson was not immediately available for further comment.
The Swedish Prosecution Authorit y said yesterday that Ny “has decided to discontinue the investigation”. Ny said she will call back the European arrest warrant on Assange.
Yesterday was the deadline for the Swedish prosecution to send a request to Stockholm District Court in the Assange case.
Assange, 45, took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London in 2012 to escape extradition to Sweden to answer questions about sex- crime allegations from two women. He has been there ever since, fearing that if he is in custody he might ultimately be extradited to the US.
It is not known if US officials are seeking Assange’s arrest because of a possible sealed indictment.
Last month, President Donald Trump said he would support any decision by the Justice Department to charge Assange.
WikiLeaks t weeted after the Swedish announcement: “UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to UK.”
Samuelsson, the lawyer in Sweden, told Swedish Radio he had been in touch with Assange via text message and the Australian had written, “Serious, Oh My God.”
British police said that despite Sweden’s decision to drop a rape investigation, Assange still faces arrest if he leaves Ecuador’s embassy in London.
The Metropolitan Police says there i s a British warrant for Assange’s arrest after he jumped bail in 2012, and the force “is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy”. But it adds that Assange is now wanted for a “much less serious offence” than the original sex crimes claims, and police “will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence”.
Police kept up round- the- clock guard outside the embassy until December 2015, when the operation was scaled back, in part because of the cost, which had exceeded £ 11 million ($ 20.8).
Julian Assange has been in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012.