Swedish prosecutors said Friday they would drop a preliminary investigation into an allegation of rape against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“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.
“According to Swedish legislation, a criminal investigation is to be conducted as quickly as possible. At the point when a prosecutor has exhausted the possibilities to continue the investigation, the prosecutor is obliged to discontinue the investigation,” the statement added.
“At this point, all possibilities to conduct the investigation are exhausted.”
At a news conference in Stockholm shortly after the statement was released, Swedish Chief Prosecutor Marianne Ny explained that the investigation had not been able to proceed because of legal obstacles.
“We are not making a statement about his guilt,” Ny said, adding that the investigation could be reopened if Assange came to Sweden before the statute of limitations deadline for the rape allegation in 2020.
Assange took refuge in Ecuador’s Embassy in London in 2012 to escape extradition to Sweden to answer questions about sex-crime allegations from two women.
He has been there ever since, fearing that if he is arrested he might ultimately be extradited to the United States where he could face trial for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents.
‘Total victory’ for Assange, ‘scandal’ says accuser
Reacting to the news, Assange’s lawyer Per Samuelson called it a “total victory for us” and added that the decision was made because “we could show that the United States is hunting him”.
Assange’s accuser however said she was “shocked” by the decision, according to her lawyer.
“It is a scandal that a suspected rapist can escape justice and thereby avoid the courts… my client is shocked and no decision to (end the case) can make her change that Assange exposed her to rape,” the plaintiff’s lawyer Elisabeth Fritz said in a statement.
Earlier Friday, British police said the 45-year-old Australian national would still be arrested if he left the Ecuadorian Embassy.
“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,” London police said in a statement. “The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy.”
Another lawyer for Assange, Juan Branco, said his client would ask French President Emmanuel Macron to intervene in the case.
“We need a political intervention to make this situation end. He is the only political prisoner in Western Europe,” Branco told The Associated Press.
A cyber hero to some, criminal to others
Assange is a cyber hero to some for exposing government abuses of power and championing free speech, but to others he’s a criminal who has undermined the security of the West.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo last month called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service”, and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, responding to a question about Assange, said the administration was stepping up its efforts against all leaks of sensitive information.
During the most recent US presidential election campaign, WikiLeaks published emails from Hillary Clinton’s staff and the Democratic National Committee which some believe helped her lose the election.
The mails were allegedly stolen by Russian hackers.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)