Swedish prosecutors have decided to drop the rape investigation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but British police say he will still be arrested if he decides to leave the embassy where he has been holed up for nearly 5 years.
The decision to drop the investigation was taken because prosecutors have concluded that it is unlikely that Assange can be extradited to Sweden in the near future. As a result, the decision to ‘detain him in absence’ has been withdrawn and the European arrest warrant has been canceled.
“In view of the fact that all prospects of pursuing the investigation are now exhausted, it appears that, in light of the views expressed by the Supreme Court in its assessment of the proportionality in this case, it could be argued that it becomes less proportionate to maintain the arrest of Julian Assange in his absence via a European Arrest Warrant,” said Marianne Ny of the Swedish Prosecution Authority.
Ny added that the decision to drop the investigation is not an indication of either guilt or innocence.
Assange, who insists he has always offered to cooperate with Sweden while staying at the embassy, has maintained his innocence. “Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget,” he said in a tweet on Friday.
But despite Sweden’s decision to drop the investigation, British police said Assange would still be arrested if leaves the embassy.
“Westminster Magistrates’ Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange following him failing to surrender to the court on the 29 June 2012,” London police said in a statement. “The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy.”
In addition, the United Kingdom has refused to say whether it has received an extradition request from the United States.
Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in June 2012 after the UK’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling to extradite him to Sweden. The Ecuadorian government eventually granted political asylum to Assange to allow him to stay inside the compound, beyond the reach of British police.
The accusations are unrelated to Assange’s work for the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, which unleashed a diplomatic scandal for the United States when it began releasing classified documents. Assange, however, has claimed that the allegations are politically-linked, arguing that the sexual encounters in Sweden were consensual.
The accusations came just months after WikiLeaks’ first big scoop in April 2010, when it released a classified video which showed a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed several unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists. Assange said in earlier interviews that he had been told to expect “dirty tricks” from the Pentagon, including “sex traps” to ruin his reputation.
More recently, WikiLeaks published stolen emails relating to the presidential campaign of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This caused Ecuador to temporarily cut Assange’s internet access at the embassy, citing its policy not to intervene in the internal affairs of other states.
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