Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Julian Assange hails 'victory' as Sweden drops probe

Julian Assange hails 'victory' as Sweden drops probe

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange no longer is the subject of an active rape investigation in Sweden, but he remains holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London facing an unclear future because of uncertainty over whether American authorities will try to get him handed over next.

Assange, 45, took refuge in the embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden after two women made rape and sexual molestation allegations against him, which he denies.

He feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks' publication of swathes of classified military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in USA history.

"If Julian Assange were to return to Sweden before the statute of limitations for the crime elapses in August of 2020, the preliminary investigation could however be reopened", Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny said in a televised press conference.

In a statement issued here, the Swedish Prosecution Authority said that Marianne Ny "has discontinue the investigation" against the Australian computer programmer. The U.S. has not dropped its interest in Assange, and London Metropolitan Police were quick to say they will continue to enforce an outstanding arrest warrant for him. The Metropolitan Police force says that there is a British warrant for Assange's arrest after he juimped bail in 2012, and it "is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy". He is now free to leave the embassy when he wants.

Friday's announcement means Assange is no longer under any investigation in Sweden.

British police said that since Assange is now wanted for a "much less serious offense" than the original sex crimes claims, police "will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offense".

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.

Assange has spent almost five years inside the Latin American country's London embassy, but he seemed robust and defiant in his brief balcony appearance. He has been there ever since, fearing that if he is arrested he might ultimately be extradited to the United States.

Ecuador's foreign minister Guillaume Long said: "Ecuador regrets that the Swedish Prosecutor delayed more than four years in carrying out this interview". It is not clear if that may change now that the investigation has been dropped.

Assange's lawyer, Per Samuelson, called the development "a total victory".

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says his legal team will contact United Kingdom officials to seek a way forward in resolving in resolving his status.

Assange has indicated concerns that he may face indictment in the United States for his role at the helm of the WikiLeaks.

He argues that the sex was consensual and has denounced the accusations as "politically motived".

Samuelsson was not immediately available for further comment.

A lawyer for the woman who alleged she was raped by Assange said "it's a scandal that a suspected rapist can avoid the judicial system and thus avoid a trial in court".

Police kept up round-the-clock guard outside the embassy until past year, when the operation was scaled back.

The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates to at least 2010, when the site first gained wide attention for posting thousands of files stolen by Manning. London's police service appeared to hint on Friday that arresting Assange on his remaining charge of bail jumping was not a top priority.

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