(TMU) — Swedish prosecutors have dropped the ongoing investigation into a 2010 rape allegation made against WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, citing the weakening of evidence over the course of nine years since the alleged incident occurred.
A Swedish woman had accused him of the crime which she said took place in August 2010 after she met the Australian during a conference in Stockholm.
Assange, who has steadfastly denied the accusation, had dodged extradition to Sweden for seven years after being given refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
In April, Ecuador’s government allowed British police to enter the embassy and arrest the 48-year-old shortly following the release of a batch of documents allegedly implicating Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno in corruption.
Since then, Assange has been held at the maximum-security HMP Belmarsh prison in London on a 50-week sentence of breaching bail conditions for seeking refuge at the embassy. While he was due to be released in September after serving out his term, a judge ruled that he should remain incarcerated due to his “history of absconding.”
The U.S. government is seeking the extradition of Assange to the United States on 18 charges, including allegations of conspiracy to hack into computers in the U.S. If convicted of these charges, which include violating the Espionage Act, he would face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.
Assange’s defenders claim, however, that he is simply being sought due to his role in the release of scandalous information implicating Washington in a range of crimes, including serious war crimes.
"This is the first time in US history that the espionage act has been used to charge a publisher, let alone to then seek the extradition of a foreign publisher to the United States" – @suigenerisjenhttps://t.co/u4m7F7pgUS
— Courage Foundation (@couragefound) November 16, 2019
In June, then-U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid approved the U.S. extradition request.
Swedish authorities reopened the 2010 rape investigation following his eviction, which had previously been closed on the grounds that it was impossible for the courts to reach Assange. In September, Swedish prosecutors announced that they had questioned seven witnesses regarding the case and that the Wikileaks founder was suspected of rape.
Swedish deputy director of public prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson, announced the decision to “discontinue the investigation regarding Julian Assange” on Tuesday, according to Swedish website the Local.
A statement published by Sweden’s prosecution authority noted:
“The reason for this decision is that the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”
Persson stressed, however:
“I would like to emphasize that the injured party has submitted a credible and reliable version of events.
Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed; however, my overall assessment is that the evidential situation has been weakened to such an extent that there is no longer any reason to continue the investigation.”
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson welcomed the move to drop the investigation, stating:
“Let us now focus on the threat Mr. Assange has been warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment.”
In a tweet, the organization founded by Assange said:
“While the world knows Julian’s name has been cleared in Sweden, he is sitting in a cell in Belmarsh prison, probably unaware of the news. The Prison cancelled all visits today. Don’t Extradite Assange!”
While the world knows Julian's name has been cleared in Sweden, he is sitting in a cell in Belmarsh prison, probably unaware of the news. The Prison cancelled all visits today.
Don´t Extradite Assange! pic.twitter.com/WhhIEGZSyA
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 19, 2019