Why did Sweden drop rape investigation of Julian Assange, and can he leave Ecuadorian embassy? Everything you need to know

The Telegraph | By Henry Samuel | 19 MAY 2017

Julian Assange on balcony of Ecuadoran embassy in London CREDIT: JACK TAYLOR/AFP


Why has Sweden dropped charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange?

In a statement, chief Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny said she had decided to “discontinue” the investigation into Assange over a rape allegation dating back to 2010 as there were no further avenues to pursue to take the probe forward.

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

Why was he accused of rape in the first place?

The accusation 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 2016.

He argues that the sex was consensual and has denounced the accusations as “politically motivated”.

Where has been since?

Assange, 45, took refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over the rape allegation. He risked being arrested by British police if he stepped out of the building.

He feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.

Can Assange walk free?

It’s not that simple. Despite Sweden’s decision to drop the investigation, British police say that he still faces arrest if he leaves Ecuador’s embassy.

The Metropolitan Police force says that there is a British warrant for Assange’s arrest after he jumped bail in 2012, and it “is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy.”

But it adds that Assange is now wanted for a “much less serious offense” than the original sex crimes claims, and police “will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offense.”

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.

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