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Sweden drops prosecution against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

20 May 2017

Julian Assange was in a celebratory mood Friday after news broke that Swedish prosecutors were dropping rape charges they had been pursuing against him.

Assange had always denied the rape allegation against him, and his accuser said in a statement that she was "shocked" the investigation had ended - describing it as a "scandal".

Although he is no longer facing action from Swedish prosecutors, Assange is still at risk of arrest if he tries to leave the Ecuadorian embassy. She said prosecutors had been unable to make a full assessment of the case and were not making a finding on whether Assange was guilty of the allegations.

Sweden asked Britain to extradite Assange for questioning, and in June 2012 he sought refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid arrest.

He feared being extradited to the USA if sent to Sweden as he could face trial there over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents.

"This is a total victory for Julian Assange".

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Prosecutors in the case say they have "exhausted" all possible options in the case and as a result have "discontinued" the investigation.

Assange has spent almost five years inside the Latin American country's London embassy, but he seemed robust and defiant in his brief balcony appearance.

U.S. President Donald Trump said last month he would support any decision by the Justice Department to charge Assange, who contends the United States should recognize his First Amendment rights as a journalist.

But it added that Assange is now wanted for a "much less serious offence" than the original sex crimes claims, so police "will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence".

The announcement by prosecutor Marianne Ny means the outspoken WikiLeaks leader no longer faces sex crime allegations in Sweden, although British police say he is still wanted for jumping bail in Britain in 2012. "Focus now moves to United Kingdom", the group tweeted.

It's not known if US officials have asked British police to arrest Assange because of a possible sealed USA indictment against him.

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Mr Assange thanked the government of Ecuador for granting him political asylum despite "intense pressure", as well as his legal team and others who had stood by him. CIA Director Mike Pompeo has branded WikiLeaks a "hostile intelligence service", and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month that Assange's arrest is a priority. They surfaced after the women accused Assange of sexual misconduct during a visit to Stockholm in 2010.

British police kept up round-the-clock guard outside the embassy until December 2015, when the operation was scaled back, in part because of the cost, which had exceeded £11 million (over $24 million at the time). According to the women's' allegations, after they compared stories, found similarities and began police initiations, the news was leaked to the press and Julian began claiming it was an attempt by the USA government to smear his character. She said the WikiLeaks founder had "tried to dodge all attempts at arrest" by British and Swedish authorities.

"Today is an important victory for me and for the UN's human rights system but it by no means erases the years of detention without charge in prison, under house arrest and nearly five years here in this embassy without sunlight, seven years without charge while my children grew up without me".

From outside the embassy, Sky's Ashish Joshi said: "Assange sounded angry, he sounded triumphant and he sounded defiant".

"The important distinction is that her sentence was commuted by then president Barack Obama".

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Sweden drops prosecution against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange