Swedish prosecutor drops three Julian Assange cases - rape case to continue
Published 13/08/2015 | 11:21
The Swedish Prosecution Authority has dropped its investigation into some of the sex allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as they are now "time barred."
A statement said the Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Nye had discontinued her investigation with respect to alleged sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. An additional alleged incident of sexual molestation will be time barred on August 18. But an inquiry into an allegation of rape will continue.
The alleged events took place five years ago in August 2010.
Mr Assange, who has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over three years after being granted political asylum, said he was "extremely disappointed" that the Swedish prosecutor has managed to avoid hearing his side of the story entirely.
The Swedish statement said an incident of suspected rape will be time barred on 17 August 2020 and a preliminary investigation will continue with respect to this alleged crime.
"The status of the evidence is unchanged and the possibilities to continue the investigation by interviews with the suspect are not exhausted."
The prosecutor said: "Julian Assange, on his own accord, has evaded prosecution by seeking refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador.
"As the statute of limitation has run on some of the crimes, I am compelled to discontinue the investigation with respect to these crimes.
"I regret having to say that this means there will be no closure with regard to these events, as we have not been able to interview the suspect."
Assange sought refuge in the Ecuador embassy over three years ago, fearing that if he travelled to Sweden to be interviewed, he would be sent to the United States for questioning about the activities of WikiLeaks.
He said he was "extremely disappointed" with today's announcement, adding: "There was no need for any of this. I am an innocent man. I haven't even been charged. From the beginning I offered simple solutions. Come to the embassy to take my statement or promise not to send me to the United States.
"This Swedish official refused both. She even refused a written statement. Now she has managed to avoid hearing my side of the story entirely.
"This is beyond incompetence. I am strong but the cost to my family is unacceptable. Even though I have been improperly treated, I would like to thank the many people in Sweden and the UK who have been very understanding of the wrong which has been done to me and my family."
Labour peer and human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy, a member of the Assange legal team, said: "Of course the allegations have been dropped. The evidence would never have stood in any court of law worthy of the name.
"Why in all those five years did the Swedish prosecution authorities fail to come to London to question Assange, as was repeatedly offered?
"Julian Assange has spent more time incarcerated in the small rooms of the embassy, with no access to fresh air or exercise and contrary to international law, than he could ever spend in a Swedish prison on these allegations.
"The remaining allegation is just as unlikely to lead to conviction. The question remains whether we are dealing with incompetence or bad faith or an agenda set by other considerations. I remain unconvinced that this prosecution has been about securing justice for women."
Michael Ratner, lawyer for Assange in the United States, said: "The decision of the Swedish government not to prosecute Julian Assange for these allegations is tantamount to recognition that this entire matter was not based on good faith investigation into whether or not a crime had been committed.
"In fact, Julian Assange has already been deprived of his freedom for longer than he would have been if he had been convicted of these allegations in the first place. There is no basis whatsoever to continue the prosecution for the remaining offence. This investigation should be terminated immediately."
Assange's mother Christine said: "I have privately shed many tears for many years - the terrible injustice of it all.
"It has been five years of anguish seeing my son so cruelly politically persecuted and denied a proper legal process.
"I can only describe the behaviour of the Swedish prosecutor as wicked, truly wicked. For five years she has knowingly perverted justice, causing great harm to Julian, his family and the relations between Sweden, the UK and Ecuador. She is the one who should be prosecuted."
Ms Nye added: "Since the autumn of 2010, I have tried to gain permission to interview Julian Assange, but he has consistently refused to appear.
"When the statute of limitation approached, we chose to attempt to interview him in London.
"A request to interview him on the premises of the Embassy of Ecuador was submitted in the beginning of June, but a permission has yet to be received.
"I still hope, however, that I will be able to arrange for an interview, as there are ongoing negotiations between Sweden and Ecuador."
Mr Assange insists he has offered to be interviewed inside the embassy and that a suggested date in June was cancelled by the Swedish authorities.
Journalist John Pilger, a friend of Mr Assange, said: "By dropping most of the allegations against Julian Assange, Sweden has finally admitted to the grotesque injustice its judicial and political elite have perpetrated against Assange for almost five years.
"Assange's only crime is to have told the world about the epic lies, manipulation and warmongering of the United States. There has never been a legitimate basis for denying him his freedom; those who have seen the 'evidence' in the Swedish case know it has been a farce from day one, including the allegation he is said to still face."
Jen Robinson, a member of the Assange legal team, told the Press Association: "Serious questions must be asked about the conduct of this investigation. Last November Sweden's Court of Appeal found the prosecutor to be in breach of her duties for delaying her questioning of Julian for over four years.
"Despite this finding, she waited another seven months to contact Ecuador and only made her formal request in mid-June.
"Julian has not 'evaded' this investigation as she asserts - he has continually offered his testimony and co-operation , and agreed unconditionally to being questioned in the embassy.
"The prosecutor bears the onus of progressing the investigation and she has failed to do so."