Sweden drops rape charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Swedish prosecutors have decided to drop charges of rape against the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.  The charges stem from accusations by two women that Assange forced himself on them seven years ago.

At the time, Assange had been arrested by British authorities and released on bail while he awaited extradition to Sweden.  Instead, he jumped bail and sought refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London.

Swedish prosecutors have not exonerated Assange; they say that because they can't prosecute him in the foreseeable future, they were forced to drop the investigation.

There is an outstanding warrant for Assange in Great Britain for jumping bail, but authorities have not indicated they will enforce it.  Neither the British or the U.S. will say if there is a sealed indictment from an American court against Assange stemming from the release of tens of thousands of classified documents.

Associated Press:

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."

The Swedish Prosecution Authority said Friday that chief Marianne Ny "has decided to discontinue the investigation" and Ny said she will call back the European arrest warrant on Assange.

Ny told reporters that the WikiLeaks founder had "tried to dodge all attempts at arrest" by British and Swedish authorities. She said prosecutors had been unable to make a full assessment of the case and were not making a finding on whether Assange was guilty of the allegations.

She said the case could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations expires in 2020.

Prosecutors frustrated by Assange's refusal to return to Sweden for questioning eventually came to London to meet with him at the Ecuadorean Embassy last year.

Samuelsson, the lawyer in Sweden, told Swedish Radio he had been in touch with Assange via text message and the Australian had written, "Serious, Oh My God."

British police said despite Sweden's decision to drop a rape investigation, Assange still faces arrest if he leaves Ecuador's embassy in London. The Metropolitan Police says there is a British warrant for Assange's arrest after he jumped bail in 2012, and the force "is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy."

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

British police kept up round-the-clock guard outside the embassy until December 2015, when the operation was scaled back, in part because of the cost, which had exceeded 11 million pounds (over $17.5 million at the time).

Assange and WikiLeaks have repeatedly infuriated U.S. officials with the widespread release of sensitive secret documents related to military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and diplomatic relations around the world. WikiLeaks also had a provocative role in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign when it published emails written by Hillary Clinton campaign officials.

Assange's biggest coup was getting Pvt. Manning to supply tens of thousands of classified reports from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.  Manning was just released from jail after being pardoned by President Obama at the end of his term.  The debate over whether the leaks cost any lives continues to rage, as dozens of Afghan and Iraqi civilians who assisted American forces had their identities compromised by the disclosures.  The best that can be said is that we just don't know.

The British may yet arrest Assange as a favor to the U.S. and hold him until he can be extradited.  But Assange has many friends, and it won't surprise me a bit if he is able to escape authorities.