Swedes drop rape case against WikiLeaks' Assange

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Sweden has dropped a rape investigation against Julian Assange, potentially paving the way for the WikiLeaks founder to finally leave self-imposed exile. In a court document seen by Reuters, chief prosecutor Marianne Ny said there were no further avenues to pursue to take the investigation forward.

While Assange may still not be able to leave Ecuador's embassy in the swanky Knightsbridge area of London, the prosecutor's decision to stop the investigation into allegations of rape brings to an end a 7-year stand-off with Sweden.

He feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in US history.

In a statement, the office said Chief Prosecutor Marianne Ny had chose to shut down the investigation and that details would be made available later at a press conference, Efe news reported.

Britain and the USA have an extradition treaty, so if Assange leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy where he's claimed asylum, the British could arrest him and send him to the US.

A spokesperson for WikiLeaks claimed the British government "refuses to confirm or deny" whether it has received a USA extradition request, adding: "Focus now moves to United Kingdom". In August 2015, prosecutors dropped their investigation into two possible charges - one of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion - because they had been unable to question Mr. Assange.

"He is now free to leave the embassy when he wants".

He also says he would be "happy" to discuss the case with the U.S. Department of Justice despite U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying that arresting Assange is a priority.

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".

She said the case could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations expires in 2020.

The long-running case against Mr. Assange had suffered several setbacks. "Focus now moves to the UK", WikiLeaks tweeted.

As reporters thronged outside the embassy Friday morning, officials there said that they had no comment and were awaiting instructions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ecuador.

WikiLeaks has generated global controversy by publishing confidential and damaging information from the United States and other countries.

Mr. Assange says that he has been denied due process during his time at the embassy, and endured "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment". British Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday that "any decision that is taken about United Kingdom action in relation to him (Assange) would be an operational matter for the police".

The news service reports he also called on the U.K.to allow Assange safe passage back to Ecuador. It is not clear if that may change now that the investigation has been dropped.

WikiLeaks has repeatedly infuriated US officials with the widespread release of sensitive secret documents related to military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and diplomatic relations around the world.

Recent public declarations such as this constitute an "obvious risk" for Mr Assange, said the letter. Revelations from those leaks have included a video showing a US Apache helicopter in the Iraq War shooting, killing two journalists, and thousands of behind-the-scenes emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Ms Ny said the motive for her decision was that there is no reason to believe the decision to surrender Mr Assange to Sweden can be executed in the foreseeable future.

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