Five years after Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid possible arrest and subsequent extradition, Swedish prosecutors have dropped a rape inquiry of the WikiLeaks founder, according to The New York Times.
Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy out of fear that facing trial in Sweden could ultimately lead to extradition to the United States, where he would likely face a multitude of charges stemming from the publishing of stolen U.S. government documents and diplomatic cables on his WikiLeaks site.
“My assessment is that the transfer cannot be executed in the foreseeable future,” said Swedish chief prosecutor Marianne Ny, explaining that the decision was not a finding of guilt or innocence. With no likely path to extradition, Ny explained that Swedish authorities were left with no other choice but to abandon the investigation.
If Assange were to return to Sweden before the statute of limitations expires in 2020, the investigation could theoretically be reopened.
Despite the existing investigation being dropped, Assange is not likely to to be leaving the embassy in London anytime soon. British authorities maintain an arrest warrant for Assange failing to appear in court.
“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,” London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
The statement from Scotland Yard notes that while the failure to appear charge is a much lesser crime than the previous rape allegation, MPS would be “obliged to execute that warrant” should Assange leave the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Additionally, the U.S. Justice Department has yet to formally charge Assange, with the department reportedly considering the case as recently as last month.
The WikiLeaks founder appeared to acknowledge the latest development in his case with a tweet on Friday:
Assange, an Australian national, has long maintained his innocence in regard to the allegations made against him by Swedish authorities.