Sweden to Drop Rape Investigation of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

It will bring to an end legal stand-off between Swedish prosecutors and Assange, who has been living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain February 5, 2016.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain February 5, 2016. PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS

Swedish prosecutors said on Friday they would drop a preliminary investigation into an allegation of rape against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday, bringing to an end a 7-year legal stand-off. 

"Chief Prosecutor Marianne Ny has today decided to discontinue the preliminary investigation regarding suspected rape concerning Julian Assange," the prosecutors office said in a statement. 

Assange, 45, has lived in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, after taking refuge there to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer questions about sex-crime allegations from two women. He denies the charges.

He has been there ever since, fearing that if he is arrested he might ultimately be extradited to the United States. Last month, President Donald Trump said he would support any decision by the Justice Department to charge Assange.

WikiLeaks tweeted after the Swedish announcement: "UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to UK,"

Friday's announcement means Assange is no longer under any investigation in Sweden. British police said before the announcement that Assange is still wanted in Britain for jumping bail. It is not clear if that may change now that the investigation has been dropped. Friday was the deadline for the Swedish prosecution to send a request to Stockholm District Court in the Assange case.

The 45-year-old Australian computer hacker was wanted in Sweden for questioning over a rape allegation stemming from a 2010 visit.

"This is a total victory for Julian Assange. He is now free to leave the embassy when he wants. We have won the Assange case. He is of course happy and relieved. He has been critical that it has lasted that long," Per E Samuelsson, his lawyer in Sweden, told Swedish Radio. Samuelsson was not immediately available for comments.