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Rape inquiry dropped, WikiLeaks' Assange remains in embassy

20 Mai 2017

On Friday, prosecutors in Sweden announced they've dropped their long-running investigation into rape allegations against Assange.

British police said they would arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy on the relatively minor charge of jumping bail, but the more severe threat is a possible sealed US indictment against him.

While the WikiLeaks website was registered in 2006, the group began its operations in 2007, with Assange saying it would use encryption and a censorship-proof website to protect sources and publicise secret information.

Hailed as a hero by supporters and reviled as a manipulator by critics, the white-haired Australian has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations.

"The road is far from over", he said, raising a clenched fist.

"Assange declared that 'the proper war is just commencing".

He promised that WikiLeaks would continue its "fight" for government transparency and digital rights, while also voicing bitterness toward the Swedish allegations against him, which date back to 2010. Nearly five years ago, the WikiLeaks founder fled the country for Ecuador to avoid a rape investigation.

He nonetheless called Sweden's decision to drop the rape investigation "an important victory for me and for the United Nations human rights system".

But on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has been holed up since June 2012, he said he can not forgive or forget the "terrible injustice" he has suffered.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday it would be "an operational matter for the police" to decide whether to arrest Assange if he left the embassy.

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The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating Assange since at least 2010, when WikiLeaks published thousands of stolen U.S. security files.

Police officers stand outside the Embassy of Ecuador in London to arrest Julian Assange for breaching his bail if he leaves Ecuador, May 19, 2017.

"This is a total victory for Julian Assange".

Although the investigation has been dropped, Assange has not been exonerated - and Sweden could reopen the case if he returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in 2020.

Scotland Yard said it was obliged to execute a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates' Court for the arrest of Mr Assange following his failure to surrender to the court in June 2012, should he leave the embassy.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he wanted to crack down on leaks and thus go after Assange, but Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, told The New York Times that Assange did nothing wrong. The rape allegation, the more serious claim, remained under investigation.

On Friday, Assange's accuser called the prosecutor's decision a "scandal", her lawyer said Friday.

In his ten-minute speech, Assange also pointed to the release of the American whistleblower and former US Army soldier Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) who landed in prison after she leaked almost 750,000 military files and cables to WikiLeaks.

Manning was released on Wednesday after spending seven years in a US military prison for passing the documents to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks also had a provocative role in the 2016 US presidential campaign when it published emails written by Hillary Clinton's campaign officials.

In view of the fact that all prospects of pursuing the investigation are now exhausted, it appears that, in light of the views expressed by the Supreme Court in its assessment of the proportionality in this case, it could be argued that it becomes less proportionate to maintain the arrest of Julian Assange in his absence via a European Arrest Warrant. The maximum sentence for that offense is a year in prison.

Rape inquiry dropped, WikiLeaks' Assange remains in embassy