Two allegations of sexual assault leveled against Julian Assange by Swedish police were dropped Thursday due to that nation's statute of limitations.
But he still faces a more serious rape allegation and remains subject to if ever he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
“Julian Assange, on his own accord, has evaded prosecution by seeking refuge in the embassy of Ecuador,” Swedish chief prosecutor Marianne Ny said in a statement. “As the statute of limitation has [expired] … I am compelled to discontinue the investigation.”
Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has not been charged in connection to the allegations and denies them, maintaining that they amount to politically motivated retaliation for his work exposing embarrassing government misdeeds. His lawyers say that should he travel to Sweden, he will be extradited to the U.S., which recently sentenced whistleblower (and Assange source) Chelsea Manning to 35 years' imprisonment.
“I am an innocent man. I haven’t even been charged," Assange told The Guardian. "From the beginning I offered simple solutions. Come to the [Ecuadorian] embassy to take my statement or promise not to send me to the United States. This Swedish official refused both.”
Since Assange entered Ecuador's embassy in 2012 and was granted asylum, the UK government has spent more than £12m maintaining a round-the-clock police presence at its doors to prevent him leaving.
The situation is a bureaucratic farce: Swedish prosecutors say they are willing to interview Assange in London, but Ecuador will not permit them to do so within their embassy. But Assange cannot leave the Embassy without being arrested by British police. If he waits out the statute of limitations on the remaining claim—another five years—he is likely to be collared anyway, for jumping bail.
Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters