Sat, May 20, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Sweden drops rape probe against Assange

AFP, STOCKHOLM

Swedish prosecutors yesterday dropped a seven-year rape investigation into Julian Assange in a legal victory for the WikiLeaks frontman.

“[Swedish] Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape by Julian Assange,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Yesterday was the deadline for the public prosecutor’s office to either renew or lift Assange’s arrest warrant before a Stockholm court.

Shortly after the announcement, Assange posted a picture of himself smiling broadly, without comment.

The 45-year-old Australian has always denied the 2010 allegations, which he feared would see him extradited to the US and tried over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents.

He has been living at the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012 and risks being arrested by British police if he steps out of the building.

British police have said they will arrest Assange as soon as he walks out of the embassy because he has broken his conditions for bail — a relatively minor offense under British law — by failing to surrender on June 29, 2012, for extradition to Sweden.

Assange’s Swedish lawyer last month filed a new motion demanding that the arrest warrant be lifted after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month said that arresting Assange would be “a priority.”

“This implies that we can now demonstrate that the US has a will to take action ... this is why we ask for the arrest warrant to be canceled so that Julian Assange can fly to Ecuador and enjoy his political asylum,” lawyer Per Samuelsson told reporters at the time.

The accusation against Assange dated from August 2010 when the alleged victim, who says she met him at a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm a few days earlier, filed a complaint.

She accused him of having sex with her as she slept without using a condom, despite repeatedly having denied him unprotected sex.

“I am entirely innocent,” Assange wrote in a 19-page testimony released in December last year.

He said that the sex was consensual and has denounced the accusations as “politically motived.”

The investigation had suffered from multiple procedural complications since it began.

The statute of limitations on the rape allegation expires in August 2020.

In a letter sent to the Swedish government on May 8, Ecuador condemned “the obvious lack of progress” in the investigation, despite Assange’s questioning in the presence of the Swedish prosecutor at the embassy in November last year.

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