WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on 2016. He has sought asylum there since 2012, when Sweden filed an extradition request on the allegation of rape — an allegation Swedish prosecutors said Friday they are dropping.
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Updated at 7:01 a.m. ET
Swedish prosecutors have announced they are dropping the country’s rape investigation of Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder, who has long denied the allegation, has been holed up at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012 to avoid the country’s extradition request.
A statement released online declared Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny’s intention to “discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange.”
“At this point, all possibilities to conduct the investigation are exhausted. In order to proceed with the case, Julian Assange would have to be formally notified of the criminal suspicions against him,” the statement reads in part. “We cannot expect to receive assistance from Ecuador regarding this. Therefore the investigation is discontinued.”
As NPR’s Frank Langfitt reports, Assange has remained at the Ecuadorean Embassy for years in fear that an extradition to Sweden would spell another extradition, in turn, to the U.S., “where he could face trial for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic and military documents.”
In a response posted to Twitter, Assange’s reaction was simple: a broad smile.
The 45-year-old Australian national is not legally in the clear, though.
“If he, at a later date, makes himself available, I will be able to decide to resume the investigation immediately,” Ny said in the statement.
The U.S. has not dropped its interest in Assange either — and London Metropolitan Police were quick to say they will continue to enforce an outstanding arrest warrant for him.
“Westminster Magistrates’ Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange following him failing to surrender to the court on the 29 June 2012,” the department said in a statement. “The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy.”
Though this is a much lesser offense, it remains a possibility that if Assange were to leave the premises of that Embassy, he might yet be arrested by British police.
That’s a fear raised by WikiLeaks in its own response on Twitter: