Assange hails ''important victory'' after Sweden drops rape investigation

Swedish prosecutors earlier in the day dropped their investigation into Assange over a rape allegation, but British police said he would still be arrested if he left the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Fearing extradition from Sweden to the United States over his leak of classified U.S. data on WikiLeaks, Assange sought refuge at the Ecuadorian mission in June 2012 after Swedish prosecutors issued a warrant for his arrest over allegations of rape and sexual assault filed by two women in Sweden in 2010.

"The UK said it would arrest me regardless", he stated.

Assange said his legal team would reach out to British authorities to try to find a way forward, and he said he would be "happy" to have a dialogue with the U.S. Department of Justice despite its threats against him.

US and British officials Friday declined to say if the United States has requested Assange's extradition.

After receiving the news from the Swedish court, the Australian journalist posted on his Twitter account a photo of him in which he appears relaxed, dressed in sports clothes and with a big smile. "That is not something I can forgive, it is not something I can forget".

The Australian, who has lived inside the embassy for nearly five years, said that a "legal conflict" with the United States and the UK continues. "To conduct a preliminary investigation for so many years and today make a decision to close the investigation is something I am very critical of", she said. "The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy", it read.

The UK government declined to comment Friday on whether the US has asked for Assange's extradition, but last month US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Assange's arrest was a "priority".

Despite the welcome news from Sweden, police in London said Friday that Assange is still wanted there for jumping bail in 2012.

But Swedish officials said the decision only drops the case and is not a ruling on Assange's guilt or innocence.

Lawyers for Julian Assange will now shift their efforts to finding out whether an extradition agreement for the WikiLeaks founder exists between the USA and British governments.

Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning served seven years in prison for giving classified material to WikiLeaks.

Since Swedish authorities have dropped its European Arrest Warrant (EAW), the MPS said it will "provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence". Focus now moves to UK.

"My client is shocked, and no closure decision can get her to change that Assange has exposed her to a rape", said her lawyer, Elisabeth Massi Fritz.

The accusation against Assange relates to an encounter between him and a woman he met at a WIkileaks conference in Stockholm in August 2010.

  • Leroy Wright