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Sweden drops investigation into Assange (Read 113 times)
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Sweden drops investigation into Assange
May 19th, 2017 at 9:25pm
Julian Assange rape investigation dropped by Swedish prosecutors after seven years

Sweden's top prosecutor says she is dropping an investigation into a rape claim against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, bringing to an end a seven-year legal stand-off.

Key points:
Assange was under investigation for alleged sex crimes from 2010, which he denies
Prosecutor dropping investigation because all avenues to pursue it have been exhausted
Assange's lawyer has described end of seven-year stand-off as "total victory"
The announcement means the WikiLeaks leader no longer faces sex crime allegations in Sweden, although British police say he is still wanted in Britain for jumping bail in 2012.

Assange, 45, took refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London in 2012 to escape extradition to Sweden to answer questions about sex-crime allegations from two women.

But the Swedish Prosecutor has now dropped that investigation because all avenues to pursue it have been exhausted.

Chief prosecutor Marianne Ny said maintaining his European arrest warrant would have required Assange to attend court in Sweden, and extraditing him to the country seems impossible in the near future.

"This is a total victory for Julian Assange. He is now free to leave the embassy when he wants," Per E Samuelsson, his lawyer in Sweden, told Swedish Radio.

"He is of course happy and relieved. He has been critical that it has lasted that long."

Announcement ends seven-year legal battle
The allegations stemmed from a 2010 trip Assange made to Stockholm, where two women claimed that in separate instances they had consensual sex with Assange that became non-consensual when he refused to wear a condom.

Assange has vigorously denied the claims, and in a statement acquired by the ABC in December, told prosecutors he had been subjected to "six years of unlawful, politicised detention without charge".

"I want people to know the truth about how abusive this process has been," Assange said in releasing the statement.

"Furthermore, in the past the prosecution has fed partial information to tabloids that politically oppose me.

"It is better that my statement, which I am happy with, and which makes it obvious to all that I am innocent, sees the light in full."

While Assange has maintained his innocence in the face of the sex crime allegations, he has lived inside Ecuador's embassy for five years.

He feared that if he was in custody he might ultimately be extradited to the US for his role at the helm of WikiLeaks, which has published tens of thousands of leaked classified US government documents.

Assange still faces UK arrest
Despite Sweden's decision to drop a rape investigation, British police say that Julian Assange still faces arrest if he leaves Ecuador's London embassy.

It is not known if US officials are seeking Assange's arrest because of a possible sealed indictment.

Last month, US President Donald Trump said he would support any decision by the Justice Department to charge Assange.

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

The Metropolitan Police force said that there is a British warrant for Assange's arrest after he jumped bail in 2012, and it "is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy".

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

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