Sweden drops charges against Assange

Sweden has dropped the charges against Julian Assange relating to allegations made seven years ago.

Stuff: Julian Assange all smiles after seven-year rape investigation is dropped

Sweden has dropped its investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who says he won’t forgive or forget the slandering of his name following an “important victory”.

The country’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Marianne Ny, made the announcement in Stockholm on Friday.

“Chief Prosecutor Marianne Ny has today decided to discontinue the preliminary investigation regarding suspected rape concerning Julian Assange,” the prosecutors’ office said in a statement.

Ny said it was “not possible to take any further steps that would move the investigation forward”.

“All prospects of pursuing the investigation are now exhausted,” she said. “It is no longer proportionate to maintain the arrest of Julian Assange in his absence.

“To continue with legal proceedings would require Julian Assange’s personal appearance in court. There is no longer any reason to continue with the investigation.”​

Assange, 45, who has been in Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012, where he was granted political asylum, tweeted a smiling image of himself after the news broke.

In February last year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said Assange was in effect being arbitrarily detained against international law.

He wasn’t detained, I thought he chose to live in the Ecudorian Embassy to avoid facing the investigation.

So that is now over for Assange, but it may not be the end of his problems.

‘REAL RISK’ OF ARREST, EXTRADITION

​Swedish prosecutors interviewed Assange at the embassy last November and in mid-March received a full translation of the interview, which they have since been reviewing.

In May, Assange’s lawyers asked the Stockholm District Court to review the detention order and arrest warrant against him.

They argued that the US had expressed they were seeking his extradition to the US over alleged crimes relating to Wikileaks’ publication of classified documents.

Assange’s lawyer Per Samuelson said Assange faced a “real risk” of extradition from Sweden. He argued his client’s remand status should be changed so he could leave the embassy to travel to Ecuador.

He is limited to where he can travel in the world to avoid the possibility of extradition proceedings.

However Assange is not likely to celebrate by immediately leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in London as he would still be arrested.

In a tweet, Wikileaks said the “focus now moves to the UK”.

US attorney general Jeff Sessions has said arresting Assange was “a priority”, over alleged crimes relating to Wikileaks’ publication of classified documents.

London’s Metropolitan Police Service, which has been staking out the embassy for five years, said there was still an outstanding warrant for Assange’s arrest in the UK for skipping bail. Wikileaks claimed the UK would arrest Assange “regardless”.

He may not find it easy to get out of Britain.

Melinda Taylor, a member of Assange’s legal team, said their next step was to push for the US to “clarify” Assange’s legal status.

“Their prosecution has been going on since at least 2010, that’s a hell of a long time,” she said. “He has been deprived of the ability to defend himself.”

His lawyers would approach the Department of Justice in the US and request that they either confirm their decision to seek Assange’s extradition, or drop the case altogether, she said.

Assange argues that he and Wikileaks are protected under freedom of speech laws, so he has no case to answer in the US.

Asked if Assange would consider agreeing to extradition to fight the case conventionally in the US courts, Taylor said Assange had already indicated earlier this year that he would do so “if he could rely on standard due process protections and assert a public interest defence”

Assange’s lawyers will also call on the UK to drop the outstanding arrest warrant against him.

They have a potential legal avenue: to approach the courts arguing that the Swedish decision constitutes a significant change in circumstances that means the warrant should be reviewed.