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

Sweden drops rape probe against Julian Assange

Sweden drops rape probe against Julian Assange

British police said Friday that they would have to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for breaching his bail if he leaves Ecuador's embassy after a Swedish rape investigation against him was dropped.

The 45-year-old sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012, after exhausting options in United Kingdom courts to avoid extradition over the allegations stemming from a 2010 trip to Sweden.

Assange, an Australian national, has previously said that he feared that if he left the embassy he could end up being extradited and face the death penalty in the United States over allegations of revealing hundreds of thousands o secret US military and diplomatic documents through WikiLeaks, CNN reported.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has suggested that the arrest of Assange could be an American priority, saying last month the US was "stepping up our efforts on all leaks".

Assange sought political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 and has been living there since, fearing subsequent extradition to the US.

WikiLeaks tweeted after the Swedish announcement: "UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a USA extradition warrant for Julian Assange".

"In view of the fact that all prospects of pursuing the investigation under present circumstances are exhausted, it appears that it is no longer proportionate to maintain the arrest of Julian Assange in his absence".

Assange has voiced concern that if he traveled to Sweden in relation to the case he would face extradition to the United States over WikiLeaks' publishing of United States military documents.

Prosecutor Marianne Ny said she could not judge whether the 45-year-old Australian native was guilty or innocent because the investigation had been thwarted. He did not take shouted questions from the reporters assembled outside and would not say if he plans to leave the embassy located in the posh Knightsbridge neighborhood. British Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday that "any decision that is taken about United Kingdom action in relation to him (Assange) would be an operational matter for the police".

The UK government declined to comment Friday on whether the US has asked for Assange's extradition, but last month US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Assange's arrest was a "priority".

The news service reports he also called on the U.K.to allow Assange safe passage back to Ecuador.

London's Metropolitan Police said Mr Assange is still wanted for a "much less serious" offence - referring to a breach of bail in June 2012.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says his legal team will contact United Kingdom officials to seek a way forward in resolving in resolving his status. He said Assange had convinced Swedish prosecutors during a November meeting past year that he was not guilty of any sex offenses.

Prime Minister Theresa May earlier said any extradition case would be looked at on a "case-by-case basis".

Fritz said the process had dragged on for too long and that her client was "shocked" by the decision to drop it now. It is not clear if that may change now that the investigation has been dropped. Revelations from those leaks have included a video showing a US Apache helicopter in the Iraq War shooting, killing two journalists, and thousands of behind-the-scenes emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Sweden's top prosecutor says she is dropping an investigation into a rape claim against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after nearly seven years. The rape allegation, the more serious claim, remained under investigation.

Ms Ny said the motive for her decision was that there is no reason to believe the decision to surrender Mr Assange to Sweden can be executed in the foreseeable future.

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