Friday, 19 May 2017
Sweden drops rape probe against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
Julian Assange is now a free man following an announcement made today by Sweden's Director of Public Prosecution, Marianne Ny, stating that Sweden has decided to drop its investigation into rape allegations made against the WilkiLeaks founder.
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. She accused him of having sex with her as she slept without using a condom despite repeatedly having denied him unprotected sex. Assange denied the rape claims and argued that the sex was consensual.
"I am entirely innocent," Assange wrote in a 19-page testimony released in December 2016.
As soon as Marianne Ny revealed that the probe has been "discontinued", focus shifted to whether Assange will attempt to fly to Ecuador to avoid extradition to America for trial over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents. The 45-year-old Australian has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost five years and has been granted political asylum. Today's announcement means that Assange is no longer wanted in Sweden, but this isn't the case in the US. It is unclear whether he will be arrested should he try to leave his embassy hide-out or whether he would be stopped at airport security if he attempted to leave the country.
The Met has spent millions standing outside the Knightsbridge building over the last five years hoping to arrest Assange.
Met Police today confirmed in a statement that there is a warrant for his arrest for failing to surrender to Westminster Magistrates' Court in June 2012, and that it was obliged to execute the warrant if he leaves the embassy. But the offence, which the Met police want him for, is less serious than the original sex crimes and his punishment is expected to be proportionate to the offence.
"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... 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."
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.
Meanwhile, soon after it was revealed that the rape investigation has been dropped, Assange tweeted a picture of himself smiling from inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. It was immediately retweeted by actress Pamela Anderson who has visited him at the embassy several times.