Julian Assange called the Swedish decision “an important victory for me.” But, he added, “it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge.”
Updated: 12:37 p.m.
As my colleague Glenn Greenwald reports, Sweden’s top prosecutor, Marianne Ny, said on Friday that she has “discontinued” an investigation into allegations that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, raped a woman in Stockholm in 2010, and withdrawn an international warrant for his arrest.
Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) May 19, 2017
Assange responded to the news in a 10-minute statement delivered from a balcony at Ecuador’s embassy in London, where dozens of reporters had assembled.
He began his remarks by calling the Swedish decision “an important victory for me, and for the U.N. human rights system.” But, he added: “it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge — in prison, under house arrest and almost five years here in this embassy, without sunlight.”
“Seven years without charge, while my children grew up without me. That is not something that I can forgive; it is not something that I can forget.”
He went on to say that the decision was also “an important vindication.” But, he added, he remains under threat from the United States.
“At this point, all possibilities to conduct the investigation are exhausted,” Ny had said in her statement earlier in the day. Ecuador’s decision to grant Assange political asylum in its embassy in London nearly five years ago, shielding him from extradition, Ny said, had also made it impossible for her to formally notify the Australian of the charges against him.
“If he, at a later date, makes himself available, I will be able to decide to resume the investigation immediately,” Ny added.
The end of the investigation thrilled Assange’s supporters, but dismayed others, including his accuser.
At last the masks are off. Sweden dropped charges that it never dared lay upon Assange. Free Julian now! Or show your ugly face Big Brother— Yanis Varoufakis (@yanisvaroufakis) May 19, 2017
Lawyer for #Assange's accuser: "It's a scandal that suspected rapist can escape justice and thereby avoid the courts. My client is shocked."— esther addley (@estheraddley) May 19, 2017
Assange still faces arrest in Britain, however, for failing to surrender to a court in London in 2012, when he lost his appeal against extradition to Sweden and took refuge in the embassy. The Metropolitan Police Service in London said that its officers would be “obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy.”
A more serious concern for the WikiLeaks founder is the fact that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently called arresting Assange “a priority,” and the Justice Department has reportedly reopened discussions about bringing charges against Assange for publishing government secrets.
Asked at an earlier news conference in Stockholm about the WikiLeaks founder declaring that the end of the investigation was “a victory,” Ny said, “It is possible that he still hasn’t had time to read through the entire decision.”
Writing about the Swedish news conference for Motherboard, Kim Zetter reported:
During the press conference Ny asserted that the US had applied absolutely no pressure on Swedish prosecutors about the case. Asked after the conference if they had received any communication or inquiries from the US government about the case, Isgren and Ny said that at the end of March, they received an email from someone purporting to be from the FBI seeking information about the case. They said the inquiry was vague and they simply directed the person to the prosecutor’s web site for public information about the case.
Asked who the FBI person was, both said they had no memory of the name and had deleted the email. They asserted that because the email did not have anything to do with advancing the case, they had no reason to retain it.
The WikiLeaks founder was originally wanted for questioning on accusations of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion brought by two Swedish women in 2010. He strenuously denied those allegations, casting them as part of a politically motivated plot to stifle his work by distorting the circumstances of what he called consensual sex. Three of the four counts were dropped in 2015 when statutes of limitations expired on all but the rape allegation.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said in an opinion released in late 2015 that Assange had been “arbitrarily detained by the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom” since the legal case against him began in 2010. The Ecuadorean embassy, where Assange has resided since losing his appeal against extradition to Sweden in 2012, is surrounded by British police officers 24 hours a day.