This article by Glenn Greenwald (The Intercept 19 May 2017) brings the good news that Sweden has dropped its questionable investigation of Julian Assange, over sexual assault allegations. However, he still faces challenges before he can gain his freedom and leave the Ecuadoran embassy.
Swedish prosecutors announced this morning that they were terminating their 7-year-old sex crimes investigation into Julian Assange and withdrawing their August 20, 2010, arrest warrant for him. The chief prosecutor, Marianne Ny, said at a news conference this morning (pictured below) that investigators had reached no conclusion about his guilt or innocence, but instead were withdrawing the warrant because “all prospects of pursuing the investigation under present circumstances are exhausted” and it is therefore “no longer proportionate to maintain the arrest of Julian Assange in his absence.”
Almost five years ago — in June 2012 — the U.K. Supreme Court rejected Assange’s last legal challenge to Sweden’s extradition request. Days later, Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and two weeks later formally received asylum from the government of Ecuador. He has been in that small embassy ever since, under threat of immediate arrest from British police if he were to leave. For years, British police expended enormous sums to maintain a 24-hour presence outside the embassy, and though they reduced their presence in 2015, continued to make clear that he would be immediately arrested if he tried to leave.
In February of last year, a UN human rights panel formally concluded that the British government was violating Assange’s rights by “arbitrarily detaining” him, and it called for his release. But the U.K. government immediately rejected the UN finding and vowed to ignore it.
Ecuador’s rationale for granting asylum to Assange has often been overlooked. Ecuadorian officials, along with Assange’s supporters, have always insisted that they wanted the investigation in Sweden to proceed, and vowed that Assange would board the next plane to Stockholm if Sweden gave assurances that it would not extradite him to the U.S. to face charges relating to WikiLeaks’s publication of documents. It was Sweden’s refusal to issue such guarantees — and Ecuador’s fears that Assange would end up being persecuted by the U.S. — that has been the basis for its asylum protections.
After years of refusing Assange’s offers to interview him in the embassy, Swedish prosecutors finally agreed to do so last November. But the Swedes’ last hope for advancing the case seemed to evaporate last month, when the candidate of the ruling party in Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, won a narrow victory over his right-wing opponent, who had vowed to terminate Assange’s asylum.
With the new president signaling that Assange’s asylum would continue indefinitely, there was virtually nothing else for prosecutors to do. Upon hearing the news, Assange, on his Twitter account this morning, posted a smiling photograph of himself.