June 23, 2017

Assange claims victory after Sweden drops rape probe

20 May 2017, 09:08 | Taylor George

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London Britain

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London Britain

ECUADOR'S government has said it will step up efforts to ensure Julian Assange is allowed to travel to the South American which granted him asylum in 2012, after Swedish prosecutors suddenly dropped a seven-year investigation into the WikiLeaks founder.

The Australian former computer hacker claimed asylum with Ecuador in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden and has been holed up inside the Ecuadoran embassy ever since.

While Sweden's investigation into Assange has been dropped, British police intend to arrest him when he leaves the embassy over a missed court appearance.

Earlier, the 45-year-old took to Twitter to again repudiate the allegations.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy, in London, Friday May 19, 2017.

Mr Assange said he had spent seven years either under house arrest or living inside the embassy, without charge, as he faced sex-related allegations in Sweden, which he has always denied.

He nonetheless called Sweden's decision to drop the rape investigation "an important victory for me and for the United Nations human rights system".

As long as that risk remains, Ecuador will continue to offer Assange asylum, he said.

That's unclear. Assange suspects there is a secret USA indictment against him for WikiLeaks' publication of leaked classified American documents, which has infuriated US officials.

USA and British officials Friday declined to say if the United States has requested Assange's extradition.

Foreign Minister Guillaume Long said Ecuador welcomes the decision and wants Britain to grant safe passage to Assange.

Sweden yesterday said that it has chose to drop its rape investigation. "The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy".

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"The claim by the United Kingdom that it has a right to arrest me for seeking asylum in a case where there have been no charges is simply untenable", he added.

"Recent declarations by high-level USA officials. reflect the executive branch's intention to once again take up criminal action against the WikiLeaks organization and Julian Assange", said Long.

WikiLeaks' release of classified material has continued unabated during Assange's five years in the Ecuadoran embassy.

"This is a total victory for Julian Assange".

Just last month, the Trump administration's Justice Department was reported to be reconsidering whether to charge Assange.

In fact, Swedish prosecutors did not vindicate Assange.

United States justice authorities have never confirmed that they have Assange under investigation or are seeking his extradition.

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, a Swedish attorney representing the alleged rape victim, said it was "a scandal that a suspected rapist can avoid justice and a trial in court".

During last year's USA presidential election campaign, WikiLeaks published emails from Hillary Clinton's staff and the Democratic National Committee which some believe helped to lose her the election to Trump.

Some of the data came from information stolen by USA soldier Chelsea Manning, who was only released from seven years confinement this week for her role in the case.

She was given a 35-year prison sentence, which former U.S. president Barack Obama commuted in January.

British police said that since Assange is now wanted for a "much less serious offense" than the original sex crimes claims, police "will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offense".

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