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Swedish prosecutor drops rape probe into WikiLeaks' Assange

20 May 2017

The Swedish prosecutor's office announced on Friday that an investigation against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for alleged rape has been closed.

He has been living at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, where he sought refuge as he feared he would be arrested in Sweden on the rape charge and extradited to the U.S. as he is wanted for revealing secret government documents. More serious are the possible charges he faces in the United States for WikiLeaks' aggressive publication of thousands of pages of classified government documents.

A statement from the prosecutor said: "Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today chose to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange".

Britain and the USA have an extradition treaty, so if Assange leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy where he's claimed asylum, the British could arrest him and send him to the US.

In a post on Twitter, WikiLeaks said that Britain had refused to confirm or deny whether it had received an extradition warrant for Mr. Assange.

"The decision to discontinue the investigation is not because we've been able to make a full assessment of the evidence, but because we didn't see possibilities to advance the investigation", Ms Ny added.

However, reporters have now gathered outside the Knightsbridge embassy in the expectation he could finally leave after four years and 334 days.

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American authorities have prepared charges to seek Arrange's arrest, CNN reported, citing USA officials familiar with the matter.

"He is free to leave the embassy when he wants to", Assange attorney Samuelson said to Swedish Radio, according to news agency TT.

It is not known if US officials are seeking Assange's arrest because of a possible sealed indictment. He has refused to return to the Scandinavian country, citing risks he will be extradited to the U.S. over the release of secret documents.

"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".

The press conference in the Swedish capital appeared to represent the final chapter in a long-standing probe into allegations that Assange initiated sex with a woman while she was asleep in 2010.

"He's an innocent man and this case has been closed", he said, adding that Assange was "very unhappy" about the long inquiry.

Ecuador's government asked the United Kingdom to give Mr Assange safe passage in order to allow him asylum in the South American nation.

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Friday's announcement means Assange is no longer under any investigation in Sweden. He said the day marked an "important victory", but noted that he still could be prosecuted by the United States.

Assange also lashed out at Sweden for taking seven years to investigate allegations he maintained were baseless.

WikiLeaks has repeatedly infuriated US officials with the widespread release of sensitive secret documents related to military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and diplomatic relations around the world.

British officials said they do not comment on individual extradition cases.

Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning served seven years in prison for giving classified material to WikiLeaks. "Focus now moves to United Kingdom".

The transgender former U.S. intelligence analyst left Fort Leavenworth on Wednesday, months after Barack Obama commuted her 35-year sentence as one of his final acts as President.

In a statement detailing his relationship with his accuser, he said that the woman had expressed a clear desire "to have sexual intercourse with me", and that the two had parted amicably after having sex several times.

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Police kept up round-the-clock guard outside the embassy until a year ago, when the operation was scaled back.

Swedish prosecutor drops rape probe into WikiLeaks' Assange