Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Sweden drops Julian Assange rape investigation

Sweden drops Julian Assange rape investigation

Julian Assange's Swedish lawyer Per E. Samuelson says it is a "day of victory" for the WikiLeaks founder after Sweden's top prosecutor dropped an investigation into a rape claim against him.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement Friday that Marianne Ny "has chose to discontinue the investigation".

As NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, Assange has remained at the Ecuadorean Embassy for years in fear that an extradition to Sweden would spell another extradition, in turn, to the US, "where he could face trial for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic and military documents".

The announcement means the outspoken WikiLeaks leader no longer faces sex crime allegations in Sweden, although British police say he is still wanted for jumping bail in Britain in 2012.

He said recent comments by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump in favor of arresting the Australian reaffirm Ecuador's belief that the rape charges against him were politically motivated and that Assange still faces a serious risk of prosecution.

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

After reportedly giving 50 hours of interviews about his life and the work of WikiLeaks to his Scottish ghost-writer Andrew O'Hagan, Mr Assange had a change of heart and wanted to cancel his contract for the memoir after reading a first draft of the book.

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

The Metropolitan Police says there is 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".

Assange and WikiLeaks have repeatedly infuriated USA officials with the widespread release of sensitive secret documents related to military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and diplomatic relations around the world.

The 45-year-old Australian, who has lived inside the Ecuador embassy for nearly five years after seeking asylum, said the "road is far from over" while adding that it was "extremely regretful" that he was still being threatened with arrest if he leaves the embassy. "So we don't make any statements on the issue of guilt", she said via a translator.

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

Assange is arrested and held for months while his case progresses, before being given a prison sentence that could reach a maximum of one year.

WikiLeaks complained about the lack of clarity in Assange's legal situation.

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

Mr Assange was questioned six months ago in the presence of Swedish officials over a sex allegation, which he has always denied. "Focus now moves to United Kingdom". They surfaced after the women accused Assange of sexual misconduct during a visit to Stockholm in 2010.

Swedish prosecutors have announced they are dropping the country's rape investigation of Julian Assange.

Assange is a cyber hero to some for exposing government abuses of power and championing free speech, but to others he is a criminal who has undermined the security of the West.

Assange has said the sex was consensual.

British 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 pounds (over $17.5 million at the time).

Keyton reported from Stockholm.

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