The investigation into allegations of rape against Wikileaks editor Julian Assange has been dropped, Swedish prosecutors announced today. The allegations date back to 2010 when, during a stay in Sweden, Assange was accused sexual assault by two women. Assange, who had left the country for the UK by the time the investigation began, appealed his extradition back to Sweden on the grounds that he feared being extradited to the US where he could face charges for Wikileaks’ publication of secret US documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After his final appeal was rejected in June 2012 by the UK Supreme Court, he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he still remains.
Following five years of diplomatic wrangling the chief prosecutor Marianne Ny said that all possible avenues to bring the case to a conclusion had been exhausted. “My assessment is that the transfer cannot be executed in the foreseeable future,” Ny said at the press conference in Stockholm, while stressing that the termination of the case did not mean that Assange had been exonerated.
“I conclude, based on the evidence that probable cause for the crime still exists,” she said, adding that if Assange were to return to Sweden before the statute of limitations on the case elapses in August 2020, the investigation could be reopened.
Assange still faces the lesser charge of failing to surrender to the court, for which he would be arrested if he were to leave the embassy. Following the announcement in Sweden London’s Metropolitan Service said in a statement that “Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence. The MPS will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence,” adding that “The priority for the MPS must continue to be arresting those who are currently wanted in the Capital in connection with serious violent or sexual offences for the protection of Londoners.” Despite the implication in the statement that the MPS will reduce its efforts to arrest Assange, he is unlikely to leave the embassy because of mounting pressure in the US for his extradition there to face charges for leaking documents which the Department of Justice claims has endangered US national security.
The Ecuadorean embassy in London welcomed the announcement saying that “Ecuador will now be intensifying its diplomatic efforts with the UK so that Julian Assange can gain safe passage in order to enjoy his asylum in Ecuador.”