Sweden drops Julian Assange rape investigation
Sweden’s director of public prosecution, Marianne Ny, announced on Friday that she has decided to discontinue rape investigations into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. This follows a seven-year standoff, a large portion of which has seen Assange living in London’s Ecuadorian embassy.
Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012, refusing to travel to Sweden over fears of extradition to the US. In 2010, WikiLeaks published more than 500,000 classified military records on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – something the WikiLeaks founder could face trial for were he on American soil.
The brief statement issued by the prosecutors reads: “Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange.”
At a press conference, Ms Ny said that the decision was not based on a pronouncement of guilt. Instead, the reasoning stems from the fact that Assange’s residence in the Ecuadorian embassy means he evaded the timeframe of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which would have seen him extradited to Sweden.
“It is my assessment that the transfer cannot be made in a reasonable timeframe,” she told reporters.
Ms Ny added that it was “regrettable” that prosecutors haven’t been able to carry out the investigation, but that the preliminary investigation could be resumed if Assange “were to return to Sweden before the statute of limitation on this case expires in August 2020”.
So does this mean Assange is now free to leave the embassy? Not exactly. According to London’s LBC the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) have said they are “obliged to issue an arrest warrant” for Assange, should he leave the building.
Wikileaks has responsed to the news, tweeting that the “focus now moves to the UK”, and that the UK had “refused to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange”.
The Met have issued a statement saying: “Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence. The MPS will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence.”
The statement added that the MPS would “not comment further on the operational plan”.
Image: Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina used under Creative Commons