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Swedes drop rape case against WikiLeaks' Assange

20 Mai 2017

Swedish prosecutors have announced they are dropping the country's rape investigation of Julian Assange.

Assange has been seeking refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, CNN reported. Assange believes the United States wants him extradited and arrested in connection with WikiLeaks' publication of classified USA documents.

United States authorities have prepared charges to seek his arrest, U.S. officials familiar with the matter told CNN last month.

Assange, who is 45 years old, has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 and has been trying to avoid extradition to Sweden related to the rape charges.

Wikileaks tweeted on Friday morning: "UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a U.S. extradition warrant for Julian Assange".

Considering that all possibilities to take the investigation further have been exhausted it no longer appears "proportional to uphold the decision about detention of Julian Assange in absentia and maintaining the European detention order". He cited public statements by United States officials saying the U.S. wanted the arrest of Assange as grounds.

A statement from the prosecutor said: "Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today made a decision to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange".

The UN had called on Swedish and British authorities to free Mr Assange from "arbitrary detention" in a report released previous year, with the United Kingdom failing to overturn the findings on appeal. British Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday that "any decision that is taken about United Kingdom action in relation to him (Assange) would be an operational matter for the police".

He still faces arrest if he leaves the embassy building, police said.

At a press conference in Quito, Long called on Britain allow Assange safe passage so he could take up his asylum in Ecuador. "Focus now moves to the UK", WikiLeaks tweeted.

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"The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy", it said in a statement.

Mr Assange has always denied the rape allegation.

Assange said his legal team would reach out to British authorities to try to find a way forward, and he said he would be "happy" to have a dialogue with the U.S. Department of Justice despite its threats against him. The South American country has granted him asylum, but it is not clear how Assange would travel there without the permission of British authorities.

During the most recent US presidential election campaign, WikiLeaks published emails from Hilary Clinton's staff and the Democratic National Committee which some believe helped to lose her the election.

Fritz said the process had dragged on for too long and that her client was "shocked" by the decision to drop it now.

"If he, at a later date, makes himself available, I will be able to decide to resume the investigation immediately", she said. There were initially two separate allegations being investigated, but one was dropped in 2015 because the statute of limitations ran out.

Russia's role remains the subject of multiple investigations by congressional intelligence committees and the FBI, which has said it's looking into whether any associates of Trump had contact or colluded with Russian government operatives.

Towards the end of his presidency, Barack Obama decided she should be freed and the former intelligence analyst was recently released from jail.

A lawyer for the woman who alleged she was raped by Assange said "it's a scandal that a suspected rapist can avoid the judicial system and thus avoid a trial in court".

British police kept up round-the-clock guard outside the embassy until December 2015, when the operation was scaled back, in part because of the cost, which had exceeded 11 million pounds (over $17.5 million at the time).

Swedes drop rape case against WikiLeaks' Assange