Sweden has dropped its rape investigation into Julian Assange.
The country’s director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, said at a press conference that the investigation had been discontinued because “there was no reason to believe that the decision to surrender him to Sweden can be executed in the foreseeable future.” In a separate statement, the prosecutor noted that in Sweden a criminal investigation has to be conducted as quickly as possible. Once the prosecutor has exhausted the avenues to continue the investigation, they are obliged to discontinue the investigation.
The prosecutor did, however, point out that the investigation “could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations ends in 2020.”
The Wikileaks founder took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London in June 2012, days after losing court battles to avoid extradition to Sweden to rape accusations, which he denies. A second allegation of sexual assault, made by a second Swedish woman, was dropped in 2015 after the statute of limitations expired.
The Swedish authorities’ decision to drop the investigations ends a seven-year impasse with Assange. It has been an expensive standoff: Assange’s first three-year stay in the Ecuadorean embassy alone cost the British taxpayers £11.1 million ($14.4 million). The Swedish prosecutor denied costs had played a role in their decision to drop the investigation.
Shortly after the Swedish prosecutor’s announcement, Assange, who still resides in the embassy, posted the following picture on his personal Twitter account.
But the Wikileaks founder is not off the hook yet. According to a brief statement by the Metropolitan Police in London, the UK still has a warrant for the arrest of Assange following his failure to surrender to the court in 2012. “The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy,” the police noted. Wikileaks took to Twitter to respond to the Metropolitan Police.
Assange has long feared he would be extradited to the US if he was sent to Sweden. If extradited to the US, Assange could be prosecuted for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents.