Sweden's top prosecutor drops 7-year rape investigation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Image License Photo: David G Silvers / CancillerĂ­a del Ecuador / CC BY-SA 2.0 License Link

LONDON (AP) Sweden's top prosecutor says she is dropping an investigation into a rape claim against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after almost seven years.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement Friday that Marianne Ny "has decided to discontinue the investigation."

Assange took refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London in 2012 to escape extradition to Sweden to answer questions about sex-crime allegations from two women. He has been there ever since, fearing that if he is arrested he might ultimately be extradited to the United States.

Friday's announcement means Assange is no longer under any investigation in Sweden. British police said before the announcement that Assange is still wanted in Britain for jumping bail. It is not clear if that may change now that the investigation has been dropped.

Ecuador's Foreign Minister Guillaume Long celebrated the decision but expressed outrage over the lengthy delays by the Swedish prosecutors in resolving the case.

He said recent comments by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump in favor of arresting the Australian reaffirm Ecuador's belief that the rape charges against him were politically motivated and that Assange still faces a serious risk of prosecution.

At a press conference in Quito, Long called on Britain to allow Assange safe passage so he could take up his asylum in Ecuador. Long added: "This has gone on long enough. No more delays."

A lawyer for the woman who alleges she was raped by Assange says "it is a scandal that a suspected rapist can avoid the judicial system and thus avoid a trial in court." Elisabeth Massi Fritz says her client is shocked but adds that "she can't change her view that Assange has exposed her to a rape."

Assange's lawyer is asking French president Emmanuel Macron to intervene in support of the WikiLeaks founder. Juan Branco told The Associated Press in Paris that he wants Macron to help Assange leave the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

Branco says: "We need a political intervention to make this situation end. He is the only political prisoner in Western Europe."

Despite Sweden's decision to drop the rape investigation, British police say that Assange still faces arrest if he leaves Ecuador's London embassy.

The Metropolitan Police force says that there is a British warrant for Assange's arrest after he jumped bail in 2012, and it "is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy."

But it adds that Assange is now wanted for a "much less serious offense" than the original sex crimes claims, and police "will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offense."

Police kept up round-the-clock guard outside the embassy until last year, when the operation was scaled back.