Julian Assange has defiantly spoken of his “important victory” after Sweden dropped a rape investigation into the WikiLeaks founder from which he has been hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy for five years.
Sweden’s Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny has decided to discontinue the investigation into the 45-year-old, who has lived in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012, trying to avoid extradition.
Ny reportedly filed a request to the Stockholm District Court to revoke his arrest warrant, seemingly ending a seven-year legal stand-off.
But Scotland Yard said it was still obliged to execute a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court for the arrest of Assange following his failure to surrender to the court in June 2012, should he leave the building.
Assange has long fought extradition to Sweden, saying he feared it would ultimately mean extradition to the US for prosecution over what Wikileaks has published.
Sweden’s decision to discontinue its case ends that threat.
But appearing on the balcony of the embassy on Friday evening, Assange said a “legal conflict” with the United States and the UK continued and the “road is far from over”.
He “extremely regretful” that he was still being threatened with arrest and ignored shouts from the crowd demanding to know whether he would now surrender to police.
Assange’s lawyer, Juan Branco, reportedly said his client will now try to claim asylum in France, The Telegraph reports.
WikiLeaks tweeted on Friday morning that the “focus now moves to UK” as Assange awaits confirmation whether or not a US extradition warrant for Assange has been receive.
The whistleblower fears being extradited to the US if he is sent to Sweden.
Assange could face trial in the US following the mass leak of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents.
Following Friday’s announcement, Assange tweeted an old picture of himself looking happy.
A few hours later he he has missed his children growing up, adding he would “not forgive or forget”.
The Met Police said in a statement it was obliged to execute the arrest warrant for failing to attend court in 2012.
It added: “Whilst Mr Assange was wanted on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) for an extremely serious offence, the MPS response reflected the serious nature of that crime.
“Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence.
“The MPS will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence.
“The MPS will not comment further on the operational plan.
“The priority for the MPS must continue to be arresting those who are currently wanted in the capital in connection with serious violent or sexual offences for the protection of Londoners.”
At a press conference on Friday, Ny said that by remaining in the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange had evaded the reach of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) that would have seen him extradited to Sweden.
“It is my assessment that the transfer cannot be made in a reasonable timeframe,” she said.
Ny said that without the possibility of Assange appearing in person in court there was no point continuing.
But the Swedish prosecutor did not rule out the investigation into Assange being reopened in the future.
She said: “In consideration of the fact that all possibilities to advance the investigation have now been exhausted it appears.. to be no longer proportional to maintain the decision remanding Assange to custody in absentia and to maintain the European arrest warrant.
“In consideration of this and of the fact that legal proceedings would require Julian Assange’s personal presence in a Swedish court, there is therefore no longer any reason to continue the preliminary investigation.
“The preliminary investigation is therefore closed.
“If Julian Assange were to return to Sweden before the statute of limitations for the crime elapses in August 2020 the preliminary investigation could, however, be reopened.”
Ecuador will intensify its diplomatic efforts with the UK so that Assange can gain safe passage to enjoy his asylum in the South American country, a foreign ministry source reportedly told the Press Association.