Swedish prosecutors have closed a seven-year investigation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over allegations of rape.
“Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape by Julian Assange,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement released on Friday.
It was not clear what had prompted the decision. Ny and Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren are set to hold a press conference on the issue at 1000 GMT on Friday.
Juan Branco, a lawyer representing Assange, said his client would now seek political asylum in France. However, he failed to explain how Assange plans to get there without being arrested by UK police and extradited to the US over his involvement in the disclosure of vast numbers of secret wires related to the US government.
Fearing extradition from Sweden to the US over his leak of classified US data on WikiLeaks, Assange sought refuge at the Ecuadorian mission in June 2012 after Swedish prosecutors issued the arrest warrant against him over allegations of rape and sexual assault filed by two women in Sweden in 2010.
Ecuador granted Assange political asylum in 2012, but a constant police presence and the arrest order has prevented him from exiting the embassy in London ever since.
The Ecuadorian government has criticized Sweden over the “serious lack of process” in dealing with the sexual assault allegations against the Australian journalist and publisher.
While the decision to drop the investigation against Assange could have meant that Assange could now leave the embassy, UK police has said he would still be arrested for jumping bail.
UK police ready to arrest Assange if he leaves embassy, possibly extradite him to US
British police are prepared to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on charges of skipping his bail if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and possibly extradite him to the United States where the Trump administration has prepared charges against him, according to reports.
A spokesman for England’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told AFP on Friday that after Assange’s arrest his case would be referred to a judge and he could face a maximum one year prison term in the UK.
According to The Guardian, police cars are parked near the Ecuadorian embassy building in Knightsbridge, London, presumably ready to arrest the WikiLeaks founder for breaching his bail, which the Metropolitan Police Force has claimed he is still wanted for.
Britain ‘must grant safe passage to Assange’
Meanwhile, Ecuador’s foreign minister called on Britain on Friday to “grant safe passage” out of the country to Assange.
“The European Arrest Warrant no longer holds. The UK must now grant safe passage to Mr Julian Assange,” Guillaume Long wrote on Twitter, shortly after Swedish prosecutors announced they had dropped their rape probe against the WikiLeaks founder.
Assange took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy in London in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden after Swedish prosecutors issued a European arrest warrant against him.
The Australian has denied the rape accusations, and says the claims are part of an attempt to ultimately have him extradited to the United States, where he could be charged over WikiLeaks’ release of 500,000 secret military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
British police said an arrest warrant was issued against Assange in 2012. “The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy.”
Possible extradition to the US
The police spokesman said he did not know whether Britain had received an extradition request from the United States.
“The UK government’s policy is to neither confirm nor deny any request for extradition until and unless an arrest is made,” he said.
The head of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has called WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” accusing its chief of helping the enemies of the US.
By Africafrique and agencies