Swedish prosecutors have decided to drop a years-long investigation into an alleged rape committed by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, though UK police said he would still be arrested if he leaves the Ecuadorean embassy in London. The prosecutors office announced the decision 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, as reported by Reuters.
Assange fled Sweden in 2012 and has been living at the Ecuadorean embassy in London to avoid extradition ever since. Swedish authorities have sought to interrogate him on allegations of sexual assault brought by two women in 2010. The 45-year-old Australian national has denied the allegations and dismissed them as a pretense for extraditing him to the US, where he could face criminal charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified material. A Swedish prosecutor questioned Assange for four hours at the Ecuadorean embassy in November 2016.
Today’s announcement brings a close to the seven-year legal saga, though UK police said prior to the decision that Assange is still wanted for jumping bail, according to the Associated Press. In a statement released Friday, the UK Metropolitan Police said Assange would still be arrested if he leaves the embassy for “failing to surrender to the court” in 2012. The statement said that UK police are “obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy,” though it said that Assange is now “wanted for a much less serious offense” in light of the Swedish prosecutor’s decision.
A WikiLeaks spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the implications of today’s decision. In a tweet posted Friday morning, the organization said: “UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to UK.” Shortly after the decision was announced, Assange tweeted a photo of himself smiling.
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