Swedish Prosecutor Drops Rape Investigation of WikiLeaks Founder Assange

Posted May 19, 2017

Swedish prosecutors said on Friday they had dropped an investigation of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over a rape allegation, but British police said he would still be arrested if he left the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he has been holed up.

"Chief Prosecutor Marianne Ny has today chose to discontinue the preliminary investigation regarding suspected rape concerning Julian Assange", the prosecutors office said in a statement.

The 45-year-old has been living in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012, after seeking asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape dating back to 2010.

WikiLeaks has expressed concern that Assange could still be arrested and extradited to the USA to face espionage charges.

Before the Metropolitan Police in London said Assange could be arrested if he leaves the Ecuador embassy, Melinda Taylor, one of Assange's lawyers, told the Swedish news agency TT: "The first thing that needs to be done, presumably, is to secure guarantees from the British authorities that he will not be arrested on other grounds".

The Metropolitan Police, meanwhile, has said that it will still arrest Assange if he tries to leave.

"It is extremely worrying that six months after the hearing at the Embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom, the Swedish prosecutor's office has not yet decided on the judicial situation of Julian Assange", the Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry said in the letter seen by AFP.

Sweden's top prosecutor says the investigation of alleged sexual offenses could reopened if Julian Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in 2020.

Swedish judges have refused to take into account the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which in February 2016 said Assange was effectively "arbitrarily detained" by Sweden and Britain and called for the arrest warrant to be annulled. He is now free to leave the embassy when he wants.

However, it noted that now the Swedish authorities had dropped their investigation, Assange was "wanted for a much less serious offence" than before and said the force would "provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence".

The Swedish prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Marianne Ny, did not disclose her intentions in advance, but she was due to address a news conference at 12:00 (1000 GMT) on Friday. "Focus now moves to United Kingdom". These include internal memos from USA embassies, and a "Collateral Murder" video which showed a U.S. helicopter firing on journalists in Iraq. Assange acknowledged the release of the documents had been timed so it harmed the prospects of Hillary Clinton becoming president.