Sweden has dropped its investigation into rape allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Sweden’s director of public prosecutions, Marianna Ny unexpectedly announced Friday that she had revoked the arrest warrant for Assange and was discontinuing the rape investigation, which has been ongoing for seven years.
Assange’s lawyers hailed the decision as a victory, but the WikiLeaks founder may still face future arrest and charges if he leaves the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has lived since 2012.
An official statement from the Swedish Prosecution Authority said Ny had decided to discontinue the investigation because “there is no reason to believe that the decision to surrender him to Sweden can be executed in the foreseeable future.”
Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in August 2012, fearing that arrest and extradition to Sweden would ultimately result in his extradition to the U.S. to face charges stemming from WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents.
Ny’s statement said that, according to Swedish legislation, any criminal investigation had to be conducted as quickly as possible, and once a prosecutor had exhausted the possibilities to continue, he or she was obliged to desist. Ny said Assange’s five-year residence at the Ecuadorean embassy had frustrated any ability to move forward with the investigation.
“In order to proceed with the case, Julian Assange would have to be formally notified of the criminal suspicions against him. We cannot expect to receive assistance from Ecuador regarding this,” Ny said. “Therefore the investigation is discontinued.”
But the statement went on to say that Ny would still be able to immediately resume the investigation were Assange to make himself available “at a later date.” The Swedish statute of limitation on the case does not expire until August 2020.
Scotland Yard said later that, regardless of the withdrawal of Sweden’s European Arrest Warrant for Assange, it was still obliged to arrest him on a charge of failing to surrender to the court.
Following Sweden’s decision to drop the investigation, WikiLeaks said its “Justice for Assange” campaign would now focus on the U.K., because British authorities have refused to confirm or deny whether an extradition warrant had been issued by the U.S. that could still lead to Assange being extradited there.
U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions said in April that the arrest of Assange was a priority for the U.S. Department of Justice. “We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” Sessions told reporters at a press conference in Texas.