Sweden discontinues Assange rape investigation

International

LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 01: Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange leaves Southwark Crown Court in a security van after being sentenced on May 1, 2019 in London, England. Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange, 47, was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions when he took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, charges he denies. The UK will now decide whether to extradite him to US to face conspiracy charges after his whistle-blowing website Wikileaks published classified US documents. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden on Tuesday dropped its investigation into an alleged rape by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently in prison in Britain.

Assange, who is battling extradition to the United States which accuses him of publishing secret documents related to his WikiLeaks work, has been facing potential charges in Sweden since 2010. The 48-year-old has denied all allegations against him.

Prosecutor Eve-Marie Persson said the case was being dropped because “the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”

She said the alleged victim, who accused Assange of raping her in 2010, “submitted a credible and reliable version of events.”

“Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed,” Persson said. 

The decision follows a ruling in June by a Swedish court that Assange should not be detained. Two months earlier, Assange was evicted from the Ecuador Embassy in London where he had been holed up since 2012. He was immediately arrested and is currently serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for jumping bail in 2012.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, said in a tweet that the focus should now move onto the “threat” that Assange has been “warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment.”

Assange has been battling potential charges in Sweden since August 2010, when an investigation began after two women accused Assange of sexual offenses during a visit to Stockholm. Sweden asked Britain to extradite Assange for questioning, and in June 2012 he sought refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid arrest. That was granted two months later.

After that, the investigation stalled. Swedish prosecutors dropped cases of alleged sexual misconduct when the statute of limitations ran out in 2015, leaving only the rape allegation.

While denying the sexual misconduct allegations in Sweden, he sought asylum for protection from possible extradition to the U.S. on charges.

Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum status in April 2019. Assange was arrested by British police and sentenced in May to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail in 2012. He remains in prison after authorities ruled he was a flight risk and faces an extradition hearing next year to the U.S. to face spying charges

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Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

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