After five years Sweden gives up on trying to prosecute Julian Assange
by Felicity Collier
WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange expressed his “regret” yesterday as Swedish prosecutors dropped their rape investigation against him — but an outstanding Westminster warrant left him still stuck in Ecuador’s London embassy.
Sweden’s Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny said her office was revoking its extradition request on the grounds his transfer to Sweden “cannot be made in a reasonable time-frame,” given Ecuador’s position of non-cooperation, before statutory time limits make prosecution impossible.
However she did not rule out reopening the case if he were “to return to Sweden before the statute of limitations for the crime elapses in August 2020.”
The decision means Mr Assange has effectively beaten a European arrest warrant and the last of three allegations over his actions at a 2010 WikiLeaks conference by claiming asylum in the embassy for the last five years.
Mr Assange has denied all allegations and claims the charges were aimed at enabling his extradition to the US, which says his whistleblowing website has broken the Espionage Act.
Mr Assange is still wanted for failing to appear in a British court in 2012, however, for which he could face jail time in Britain and the continued possibility of extradition, this time directly into US hands.
In his initial response Mr Assange tweeted: “[I have been] detained for seven years without charge while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.”
Later in an official statement he said his next step would be to challenge the British warrant, saying: “My legal staff have contacted the UK authorities, and we hope to engage in a dialogue on what is the best way forward. To some extent Britain has been exploited by the process it entered into with the EU, where it agreed to extradite people without charge.”
Ecuador Foreign Minister Guillaume Long said: “Ecuador will now be intensifying its diplomatic efforts so that Julian Assange can gain safe passage” to South America to claim asylum there.
A recent letter sent to the Swedish government by Ecuador said there had been a “serious failure” to complete inquiries and raised concerns about CIA director Mike Pompeo describing WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service.”
In the past Mr Assange has stated that he would be willing to be extradited to the US on condition that his rights are respected and former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was released from prison.
Ms Manning was freed last Wednesday after former president Barack Obama commuted her 35-year prison sentence for disclosing classified information about US war crimes to WikiLeaks.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, a supporter of Mr Assange, said:”I thought he should face the allegations — and he was willing to be interviewed. But [Swedish authorities] took four or five years to get around to doing it.
“They’ve come back with no charges against him which does call into question their credibility or the chances of a successful prosecution.”
He warned that Mr Assange could face a 30 to 50-year sentence in the US.
Last year, the UN found that Britain and Sweden in violation of international law and said Mr Assange had suffered “arbitrary detention.”
The report, which called on authorities to end his “deprivation of liberty” was branded “frankly ridiculous” by then-foreign secretary Philip Hammond, who said at the time: “Julian Assange is a fugitive from justice.”