Sweden's top prosecutor on Friday dropped an investigation into a rape claim against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after almost seven years, saying that's because there's no possibility of arresting him "in the foreseeable future."
The announcement means the outspoken WikiLeaks leader no longer faces sex crime allegations in Sweden, although British police say he is still wanted for jumping bail in Britain in 2012. It does not clear Assange's name, however, and some experts say it puts him into an even more precarious legal situation if the US has as some suspect a sealed indictment for his arrest.
Assange, 45, took refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London in 2012 to escape extradition to Sweden to answer questions about sex-crime allegations from two women. He has been there ever since, fearing that if he was in custody he might ultimately be extradited to the United States for his role at the helm of WikiLeaks, which has enraged governments around the world by publishing tens of thousands of leaked classified US documents.
Per E Samuelson, Assange's lawyer in Sweden, told The Associated Press that it was a "day of victory" for the WikiLeaks founder. He said Assange had convinced Swedish prosecutors during a November meeting last year that he was not guilty of any sex offenses. "The truth is, he gave a very good explanation: this was consensual sex between two adults and nothing else. And he's a free man," Samuelson said. "He's an innocent man and this case has been closed," he said, adding that Assange was "very unhappy" about the long inquiry, which he said cost Assange "five, six years of his life."
It's not known if US officials have asked British police to arrest Assange because of a possible sealed US indictment against him. A US Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment on the case. British officials said they do not comment on individual cases. British Prime Minister Theresa May said "any decision that is taken about U.K. action in relation to him (Assange) would be an operational matter for the police."
US President Donald Trump said last month 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."