Sweden’s top prosecutor says she is dropping an investigation into rape claims against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, bringing to an end a seven-year legal stand-off.
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.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) issued a statement saying that “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 said.
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.
The Swedish Prosecutor has now dropped that investigation because all avenues to pursue it have been exhausted.
‘The road is far from over’
Addressing supporters and the media on the embassy’s balcony after the announcement, Assange said he was ready to talk to Britain “about what is the best way forward” and with the US Department of Justice, but also defended his right to stay put.
“The road is far from over,” he said after raising a clenched fist in a gesture of victory.
“The war, the proper war, is just commencing.”
Chief Swedish 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.”
— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) May 19, 2017
Shortly after the announcement was made, Assange posted an old photo of himself smiling on Twitter and followed it up with a personal message.
“Detained for seven years without charge … while my children grew up and my name was slandered,” he wrote.
“I do not forgive or forget.”
Assange’s mother Christine Assange called on the Australian Government to give her son a new passport so that he can leave Britain.
“His passport’s been confiscated, the Australian Government should immediately issue him another one and demand safe passage for him to take up legal asylum in Ecuador,” she told the ABC.
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.
While Assange has maintained his innocence in the face of the sex crime allegations, he has not left Ecuador’s embassy for five years, except for occasional appearances on the building’s balcony.
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.
“It isn’t a question of believing America is after him, it’s a question of knowledge,” human rights lawyer and legal advisor to Assange, Geoffrey Robertson, told Lateline.
Mr Robertson said the US was likely to indict Assange, and that the Trump administration could use his case as a diversion from the alleged ties to Russia.