Published: Sun, May 28, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

London Police Would Arrest Assange If He Leaves Embassy

London Police Would Arrest Assange If He Leaves Embassy

Sweden's top prosecutor said Friday she would drop the investigation into a rape claim against Julian Assange after nearly seven years - but the controversial WikiLeaks founder isn't a free man just yet.

The Australian sought asylum in Ecuador's London embassy in 2012 after a judge ordered his extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.

"He has been critical that it has lasted that long", Per E Samuelsson, his lawyer in Sweden, told Swedish Radio.

Appearing on the balcony of the Ecuador Embassy in central London, where he has spent the last five years, Assange said "today is an important victory for me" and for United Nations human rights. "Today is an important victory".

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said in an opinion released in late 2015 that Assange had been "arbitrarily detained by the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom" since the legal case against him began in 2010.

He told reporters that the Swedish prosecutors dropping his case means "an important victory" for him, however, it does not cancel out the fact that he had to hide, "without sunlight", for seven years.

The Australian, who has lived inside the embassy for nearly five years, said the "road is far from over", adding it was "extremely regretful" he was still being threatened with arrest if he leaves the embassy. The investigation could be reopened if Assange comes to Sweden before the statute of limitations deadline for the rape allegation in 2020.

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At a press conference Friday in Stockholm, Ny, chief of the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said she "has chose to discontinue the investigation" and call back the European arrest warrant for Assange.

Mr Assange thanked the government of Ecuador for granting him political asylum despite "intense pressure", as well as his legal team and others who had stood by him.

Despite that, British police said they would still arrest Assange if he tried to leave the embassy. "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".

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has claimed that Assange is a priority for the department, the Times reported. "This is obviously about consensual sex between two adults".

After a seven-year stand-off with Sweden, Assange may still not be able to leave the Ecuadorean Embassy.

Assange is guilty of not surrendering to the court, which is punishable by a year in prison or a fine.

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