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Sweden drops probe against WikiLeaks' Julian Assange

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U.K

Sweden drops probe against WikiLeaks' Julian Assange


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has complained he has unfairly missed seven years of his children growing up due to his ‘detention’ after Sweden dropped its rape probe against him. 

The 45-year-old said ‘I do not forgive or forget’ hours after Sweden’s top prosecutor, Marianne Ny, said the investigation had been ‘discontinued’ having effectively become a lost cause.

Assange, who denies the 2010 rape claims, has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost five years and has been granted political asylum.

This afternoon he tweeted: ‘Detained for 7 years without charge while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.’

Sweden’s interest in his arrest has ended, but he is still wanted by the US and UK.

Met Police today confirmed there is a warrant for his arrest for not appearing in court in 2012, and that it was ‘obliged’ to execute the warrant if he leaves the embassy – but the importance of his case is now seen as ‘less serious’. 

Julian Assange posted this picture of himself in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London today moments after Sweden dropped an investigation in to rape allegations

Julian Assange posted this picture of himself in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London today moments after Sweden dropped an investigation in to rape allegations

This afternoon Assange tweeted: 'Detained for 7 years without charge while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget'

This afternoon Assange tweeted: 'Detained for 7 years without charge while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget'

This afternoon Assange tweeted: ‘Detained for 7 years without charge while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget’

A police officer walks past the Ecuadorian embassy in London this morning as it emerged that Sweden had dropped its investigation into Julian Assange

A police officer walks past the Ecuadorian embassy in London this morning as it emerged that Sweden had dropped its investigation into Julian Assange

A police officer walks past the Ecuadorian embassy in London this morning as it emerged that Sweden had dropped its investigation into Julian Assange

America wants to extradite the 45-year-old Australian to stand trial over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents. The focus will now move to whether Assange will risk arrest by attempting to leave the embassy and flying to Ecuador to seek long-term asylum. 

It is unclear whether America has already requested his extradition or whether they would be able to obtain a warrant before he flees Britain. The US recently described his arrest as a ‘priority’.

Moments after this morning’s decision, Assange tweeted a picture of himself smiling. It was immediately retweeted by actress Pamela Anderson who has visited him at the embassy several times. 

A lawyer for Assange’s accuser said his client was ‘shocked’ by Sweden’s decision and maintains her accusation. 

Today was the deadline for Sweden’s public prosecutor’s office to either renew the pan-European arrest warrant or lift it.

Its probe into Assange was ended because there was ‘no reason to believe that the decision to surrender him to Sweden can be executed in the foreseeable future’, prosecutors said.

However, it is not yet clear whether he will be arrested should he try to leave his London hide-out or whether he would be stopped at airport security if he attempted to leave the country. 

He may even look to France for help after his lawyer Juan Branco said he was prepared to ask new president Emmanuel Macron to intervene. 

The dramatic decision was revealed by Sweden 's Director of Public Prosecution, Marianne Ny (pictured today), who said the probe had been 'discontinued'

The dramatic decision was revealed by Sweden 's Director of Public Prosecution, Marianne Ny (pictured today), who said the probe had been 'discontinued'

The dramatic decision was revealed by Sweden ‘s Director of Public Prosecution, Marianne Ny (pictured today), who said the probe had been ‘discontinued’

The 45-year-old Australian has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (pictured today) for almost five years and has been granted political asylum

Investigators had today been expected to reveal whether they would lift a Europe-wide arrest warrant against him in a seven-year-old case 

Investigators had today been expected to reveal whether they would lift a Europe-wide arrest warrant against him in a seven-year-old case 

Investigators had today been expected to reveal whether they would lift a Europe-wide arrest warrant against him in a seven-year-old case 

Branco said: ‘We need a political intervention to make this situation end. He is the only political prisoner in Western Europe.’

Meanwhile Ecuador’s foreign ministry has said it will intensify its diplomatic efforts with the UK so that Assange can gain safe passage to enjoy his asylum in the South American country.

In a statement this morning, Met police said it was ‘obliged’ to execute a warrant for the arrest of Assange should he leave the embassy after he failed to surrender to Westminster Magistrates’ Court in June 2012.

‘Whilst Mr Assange was wanted on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) for an extremely serious offence, the MPS response reflected the serious nature of that crime. 

‘Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence.’

ASSANGE: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Why was Julian Assange wanted by Sweden? 

Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Mr Assange over rape allegations relating to 2010.

The accusation against Assange dated from August of that year 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.  He has always denied the claims.  

Why did he go to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London?

The 45-year-old has been living in the embassy in London since 2012, after seeking asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden to face the rape allegation.

He feared the claims would see him extradited to the United States and tried over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents. 

Ecuador’s Foreign Minster Ricardo Patino said Mr Assange’s human rights would be at risk if he were extradited.

The 45-year-old has been living in the embassy in London since 2012, after seeking asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden to face the rape allegation

The 45-year-old has been living in the embassy in London since 2012, after seeking asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden to face the rape allegation

The 45-year-old has been living in the embassy in London since 2012, after seeking asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden to face the rape allegation

Why do the US want to extradite him?

Assange and WikiLeaks have repeatedly infuriated U.S. officials with the widespread release of sensitive secret documents related to military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and diplomatic relations around the world. 

Among the major leaks since the site’s foundation were battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, diplomatic communications and a military video showing a US helicopter attack that killed at least 11 men.

Former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison over the leaks but this was commuted after seven years by former US president Barack Obama in January.

WikiLeaks also had a provocative role in the 2016 US presidential campaign when it published emails written by Hillary Clinton campaign officials.

Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning served seven years in prison for giving classified material to WikiLeaks. She was freed on Wednesday, having had her sentence commuted by outgoing President Barack Obama before he left office. 

Why has Sweden dropped the charges?

Swedish prosecutors dropped cases of alleged sexual misconduct when the statute of limitations ran out in 2015, leaving only the rape allegation.

Marianne Ny, the Swedish director of public prosecutions announced Friday that she was dropping the rape case because there is no prospect of bringing Assange to Sweden ‘in the foreseeable future’ and it is ‘no longer proportionate’ to maintain the European arrest warrant.

She told a news conference in Stockholm that the investigation could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in 2020.

Ny said the case was not being dropped because Assange has been found innocent.

Assange feared the claims would see him extradited to the United States and tried over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents

Assange feared the claims would see him extradited to the United States and tried over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents

Assange feared the claims would see him extradited to the United States and tried over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents

‘We don’t make any statement of guilty or not,’ she said.

Is Assange free to leave the Ecuador embassy? 

Sweden has revoked a European Arrest Warrant for Assange, so British police are no longer seeking him for extradition. But there is also a warrant issued by a British court after he skipped bail in June 2012.

London’s Metropolitan Police force says that it ‘is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy.’ The maximum sentence for that offense is a year in prison.

Police indicated they will significantly scale back the resources dedicated to making sure Assange does not escape now that he is wanted for a much less serious crime. 

Are there other charges against Assange?

That’s unclear. Assange suspects there is a secret U.S. indictment against him for WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked classified American documents. CIA Director Mike Pompeo has branded WikiLeaks a ‘hostile intelligence service,’ and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month that Assange’s arrest is a priority.

Both U.S. and British officials have declined to comment on whether there is a warrant for Assange’s arrest. 

Does Sweden’s action make Assange safer?

Some legal experts say it makes his position less secure. Until Friday, Britain was bound to honour Sweden’s extradition request before any warrant from the United States. That is no longer the case.

Lawyer David Allen Green, who has followed the case, tweeted: ‘Once outside embassy, Assange more at risk from any U.S. extradition attempt than if he had gone to Sweden.’

Assange could fight any U.S. extradition request in the British courts, a process that could take years. 

The Met revealed in 2015 it had spent more than £12million of taxpayers’ money standing outside the Knightsbridge building and would scale down its round-the-clock presence there amid public criticism of the cost.

But the force added today: ‘The MPS will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence. 

‘The priority for the MPS must continue to be arresting those who are currently wanted in the Capital in connection with serious violent or sexual offences for the protection of Londoners.’  

This morning WikiLeaks said the ball was now in Britain’s court. 

‘UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to UK,’ it said in a tweet.

The Home Office does not confirm or deny that an extradition request has been made or received until an arrest is made in relation to that request. 

Asked if Britain would now support a request to extradite Mr Assange to the United States, Prime Minister Theresa May said: ‘We look at extradition requests on a case-by-case basis.’

Speaking at a Conservative campaign event in Edinburgh, Mrs May added: ‘In relation to Julian Assange, any decision that is taken about UK action in relation to him were he to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy would be an operational matter for the police.’ 

A lawyer on Assange’s legal team, Per Samuelsson, told Swedish radio the decision was ‘a total victory’, saying that Assange was ‘of course happy and relieved’.

Samuelsson also said that the decision meant Assange ‘is free to leave the embassy whenever he wants’, though he later told the TT news agency that he did not know when Assange might leave.

‘What I do know is that Sweden does not stop him from doing it. Sweden is out of the game,’ he said. 

Ecuadorian ambassador to Britain, Carlos Antonio Abad Ortiz arrives at his Embassy this morning

Ecuadorian ambassador to Britain, Carlos Antonio Abad Ortiz arrives at his Embassy this morning

Ecuadorian ambassador to Britain, Carlos Antonio Abad Ortiz arrives at his Embassy this morning

The focus will now move to the governments of the UK and the US and whether Assange will fly to Ecuador to avoid extradition to America

The focus will now move to the governments of the UK and the US and whether Assange will fly to Ecuador to avoid extradition to America

The focus will now move to the governments of the UK and the US and whether Assange will fly to Ecuador to avoid extradition to America

He said he had spoken to Assange this morning, and that the 45-year-old had told him: ‘Are you sure, oh my god, I won everything. I am very glad that the Swedish chapter of this story now has ended.

‘But I am also very disappointed about the way I have been treated by the Swedish legal system. I had to wait for six years before being questioned. So behind todays short burst of happiness lies a long period of disappointment due to fact that I have been forced to be hiding at the embassy for so many years.’

Another lawyer, Christophe Marchand, told AFP that ‘We have been waiting a long time for this decision’.

‘Julian Assange has been a victim of a huge abuse of procedure. We are very pleased and very moved, as this marks the end of his nightmare.’

Assange’s Swedish lawyer last month filed a new motion demanding that the arrest warrant be lifted after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April 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 cancelled so that Julian Assange can fly to Ecuador and enjoy his political asylum,’ lawyer Per Samuelsson told AFP 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.

Moments after this morning's decision, he tweeted a picture of himself smiling. It was immediately retweeted by actress Pamela Anderson who has visited him at the embassy several times (pictured, in October)

Moments after this morning's decision, he tweeted a picture of himself smiling. It was immediately retweeted by actress Pamela Anderson who has visited him at the embassy several times (pictured, in October)

Moments after this morning’s decision, he tweeted a picture of himself smiling. It was immediately retweeted by actress Pamela Anderson who has visited him at the embassy several times (pictured, in October)

Sweden has decided to drop its investigation in to rape allegations made against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, it has emerged

Sweden has decided to drop its investigation in to rape allegations made against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, it has emerged

Sweden has decided to drop its investigation in to rape allegations made against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, it has emerged

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 2016.

He argues that the sex was consensual and has denounced the accusations as ‘politically motivated’.

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 2016.

‘It is extremely worrying that six months after the hearing at the Embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom, the Swedish prosecutor’s office has not yet decided on the judicial situation of Julian Assange,’ the Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry said in the letter seen by AFP.

Swedish judges have refused to take into account the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which in February 2016 said Assange was effectively ‘arbitrarily detained’ by Sweden and Britain and called for the arrest warrant to be annulled.

KEY DATES IN THE ASSANGE SAGA 

A Swedish probe into a sex allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been dropped

A Swedish probe into a sex allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been dropped

A Swedish probe into a sex allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been dropped

An investigation into a sex allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been dropped by Sweden’s Director of Public Prosecution.

The development is the latest in a long-standing saga involving Mr Assange, who has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost five years. Here are the key dates in the case:

2010

August

An arrest warrant is issued for Mr Assange for two separate allegations – one of rape and one of molestation – after he visits Sweden. He is questioned by police in Stockholm and denies the allegations.

November

Stockholm District Court approves a request to detain the WikiLeaks founder for questioning on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. An international arrest warrant is issued by Swedish police through Interpol.

December

Mr Assange presents himself to London police and appears at an extradition hearing where he is remanded in custody. At a later hearing he is granted conditional bail but is kept behind bars after Swedish authorities challenge the decision.

He is later granted conditional bail at the High Court in London after his supporters pay £240,000 in cash and sureties.

2011

February

District Judge Howard Riddle rules Mr Assange should be extradited to Sweden and denies this would breach his human rights. Mr Assange vows to fight the decision.

November

Mr Assange loses a High Court appeal against the decision to extradite him.

2012

May

The UK Supreme Court upholds the High Court decision in the case, ruling that extradition is lawful and can go ahead. The Supreme Court later rejects a move by Mr Assange to reopen his appeal against his extradition, saying it is ‘without merit’.

June 19

Mr Assange enters the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, requesting political asylum. A day later, Scotland Yard confirms he will be subject to arrest for breaching his bail conditions.

August 16

Mr Assange is granted political asylum by Ecuador.

The development is the latest in a long-standing saga involving Mr Assange, who has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost five years

The development is the latest in a long-standing saga involving Mr Assange, who has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost five years

The development is the latest in a long-standing saga involving Mr Assange, who has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost five years

August 19

Mr Assange makes his first public appearance in two months on the Ecuadorian Embassy’s balcony and calls for the US government to ‘renounce its witch-hunt’ against WikiLeaks.

November

Ecuador’s ambassador to the UK, Ana Alban, says Mr Assange is suffering a chronic lung condition after spending months inside a one-room office at the embassy. The Ecuadorian government later plays down the health fears and says Mr Assange ‘does not have an urgent medical condition’.

December

Mr Assange marks the six-month anniversary inside the embassy by making another appearance on the balcony to say the ‘door is open’ for talks to break the deadlock over his campaign to avoid extradition to Sweden.

2013

June

Mr Assange tells a group of journalists he will not leave the embassy even if sex allegations against him are dropped, because he fears moves are already under way to extradite him to the United States.

2014

July

Mr Assange loses a legal bid to have an arrest warrant issued in Sweden against him cancelled. A judge in Stockholm decided to uphold the warrant against him for alleged sexual offences against two women.

August

Mr Assange tells a press conference he will be leaving the embassy soon following speculation that he is seeking hospital treatment for heart and lung problems. He later brushes off reports that he is about to give up his fight against extradition to Sweden.

September

On behalf of Mr Assange, his legal team submitted a complaint against Sweden and the United Kingdom to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention claiming his confinement in the embassy amounts to illegal detention.

November

Mr Assange loses a legal move in a Swedish appeal court aimed at revoking his arrest warrant.

December

Mr Assange appears on the embassy’s balcony to greet Noam Chomsky, the US philosopher and activist. Hollywood actor John Cusack also visits the WikiLeaks founder later in the month.

Assange's lawyer described the decision as 'a total victory'. He has been in the Ecuadorian embassy for five years

Assange's lawyer described the decision as 'a total victory'. He has been in the Ecuadorian embassy for five years

Assange’s lawyer described the decision as ‘a total victory’. He has been in the Ecuadorian embassy for five years

2015

March

Swedish prosecutors ask to question Mr Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy.

June

Mr Assange claims the Swedish prosecutor has cancelled an appointment to interview him at the embassy.

August 13

Swedish prosecutors drop investigations into some of the sex allegations against Mr Assange due to time restrictions. The investigation into suspected rape remains active.

August 16

Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said Ecuador’s decision to harbour Mr Assange in its embassy had prevented the proper course of justice. He said the UK continued to have a legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden, where he remained suspected of a sexual offence.

August 21

Civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson visits Mr Assange inside the embassy. Afterwards, he says: ‘Eight hundred years after the Magna Carta, freedom of the press is right and detention without charges is wrong.’

October 12

Metropolitan Police end their 24-hour guard outside the Ecuadorian Embassy. It breaks a three-year police operation which is estimated to have cost more than £12 million.

2016

February 5

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention says Mr Assange is being ‘arbitrarily detained’ in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and calls on authorities to end his ‘deprivation of liberty’.

The report is branded ‘frankly ridiculous’ by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond – a response which Mr Assange described as ‘insulting’.

February 9

Swedish prosecutors say they are working on a renewed request to interview Mr Assange at the embassy.

February 22

Lawyers for Mr Assange submit papers to a Swedish court, asking for his arrest warrant to be overturned.

Swedish Chief prosecutor Marianne Ny (pictured today) said the rape investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been dropped

Swedish Chief prosecutor Marianne Ny (pictured today) said the rape investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been dropped

Swedish Chief prosecutor Marianne Ny (pictured today) said the rape investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been dropped

March 24

The Government formally asks a UN Working Group to review its finding that Mr Assange was subject to arbitrary detention, saying the opinion was ‘deeply flawed’.

March 25

A Swedish court refuses to drop an arrest warrant against Mr Assange.

June 20

Ecuador reveals it has received a formal request from the Swedish authorities to interview Mr Assange.

August 9

Mr Assange files an appeal at Sweden’s Court of Appeal of Svea, arguing the country must comply with the UN working group’s findings that his deprivation of liberty was unlawful.

August 11

Ecuador announces that Mr Assange will be questioned by Swedish prosecutors in the embassy in London.

September 16

Sweden’s Court of Appeal rejects a bid by Mr Assange to have his sex assault warrant dropped, saying no new information has emerged.

November 14

Mr Assange is questioned over the sex allegation at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the presence of Sweden’s assistant prosecutor Ingrid Isgren and police inspector Cecilia Redell. The interview spans two days.

November 30

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention rejects a request by the UK Government to review the case of Mr Assange.

2017

January 17

Barack Obama’s decision to free whistleblower Chelsea Manning prompts speculation that Mr Assange will end his self-imposed exile.

WikiLeaks tweeted prior to the decision: ‘If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ (Department of Justice) case.’

January 19

Mr Assange tells a press conference that he stands by his offer to go to the US, provided his rights are respected.

March 9

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage is spotted leaving the embassy where Mr Assange is being held.

April 21

America’s attorney general Jeff Sessions says Mr Assange’s arrest is a ‘priority’ for the United States. 



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