Swe­den case ‘ vic­tory’ for As­sange

Charges dropped but Wik­iLeaks founder still faces ar­rest in Bri­tain

Weekend Herald - - WORLD -

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).

Per Sa­muels­son

Pic­ture / AP

Ju­lian As­sange has been in the Ecuadorean em­bassy in London since 2012.

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