Prosecutors in Sweden have officially dropped the rape investigation into Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, saying that without the official cooperation of Ecuador, it would be impossible to bring him before a Swedish court.
Two Swedish women made allegations of sexual assault against Assange following a visit to the country in 2010; he was questioned and released, but in November of that year, special prosecutors requested his extradition.
In 2012, when the UK Supreme Court ruled that Assange was to be extradited to Sweden to face the investigation, he sought political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has remained since.
At a press briefing on Friday, Swedish special prosecutor Marianne Ny announced that the arrest warrant for Assange has been revoked, as it is impossible in the present circumstances to serve him with formal notification.
Ny told reporters: “If he were to return to Sweden before the statute of limitation on this case expires in August 2020, the preliminary investigation could be resumed.”
She said it was “regrettable” that Sweden could not carry out its investigation into Assange, and added that “we are not making any pronouncement about guilt.”
In May of last year, a court in Stockholm upheld the arrest warrant against the 45-year-old Wikileaks founder, saying that there was still “probable cause for suspicion” concerning the sexual assault allegations.
Elisabeth Fritz, a lawyer representing one of Assange’s alleged victims, told media:
“It is a scandal that a suspected rapist can disregard the judiciary and thus avoid trial. Proof of evidence in the case is available and that evidence should have been tried in court.”
Assange himself has celebrated the development, appearing on the balcony of the embassy to thank his supporters and rail against the “terrible injustice” that has been done to him.
“Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered,” he said on Twitter. “I do not forgive or forget.”
Assange has long-maintained that the accusations against him were false and politically-motivated.
Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.
— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) May 19, 2017
A source in the Ecuadorian embassy told reporters 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.”
This may not be easy, however, as UK police have indicated that they will still be obliged to arrest Assange if he leaves he embassy, on the charge of failing to surrender to a court.
It is also very likely that the US still has an interest in extraditing him to face trial over the leaking of thousands of classified military documents, with Attorney-General Jeff Sessions calling his arrest “a priority.”
Photo: Jack Taylor / Getty.