Swedes drop charges against Julian Assange

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Swedish prosecutors are to drop an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The decision brings to an end an lengthy legal stand-off with the anti-secrecy campaigner, who has lived in Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to the US.

However, he still faces arrest by the Met over a lesser allegation of failure to surrender to court if he leaves the building.

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

Assange, 45, has always denied the allegation that was made against him.

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Julian Assange: The case against him has been dropped by Swedish authorities (EPA)

He said he took refuge at the embassy because he feared his arrest in Sweden would lead to him being extradited to the US to face charges over WikiLeaks’ release of 500,000 secret military files.

WikiLeaks tweeted this morning: “Sweden has dropped its case against Julian Assange and will revoke its arrest warrant.”

Former US army intelligence official Chelsea Manning was this week released from jail after serving seven years for passing passed classified government materials to WikiLeaks.

Friday’s development follows a letter sent to the Swedish government by the government of Ecuador saying there had been a “serious failure” by the prosecutor, including a “lack of initiative” to complete inquiries.

The letter raised developments in the United States since the election of Donald Trump as President, including a speech by CIA director Mike Pompeo describing WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service”.

Recent public declarations such as this constitute an “obvious risk” for Mr Assange, said the letter.

Mr Assange originally faced three sex allegations, all of which he denied.

The focus will now move to the governments of the UK and the United States.

Mr Assange was on bail when he arrived at the Ecuador embassy in Central London almost five years ago.

WikiLeaks tweeted: “UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to UK.”

A Scotland Yard spokesman said today Mr Assange would face arrest if he left the embassy.

He said: “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. The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy.

“Whilst Mr Assange was wanted on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) for an extremely serious offence, the MPS response reflected the serious nature of that crime.

“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.

-London Standard