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Not yet freedom for Assange, faces arrest in Britain

20 May 2017

Swedish prosecutors have announced they are dropping the country's rape investigation of Julian Assange.

Assange contends the United States should recognize his First Amendment rights as a journalist.

In Britain, he still faces an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court, and the London police said on Friday that they would arrest him if he tried to leave the embassy. He was on bail when he arrived at the Ecuador Embassy in Central London nearly five years ago. More serious are the possible charges he faces in the United States for WikiLeaks' aggressive publication of thousands of pages of classified government documents.

In a recent letter to the Swedish government, Ecuador criticized the lack of progress in the investigation, expressing dismay over its sluggish pace despite the fact that Swedish officials had questioned Mr. Assange at the embassy at the end of 2016.

Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuador and has been able to evade justice because he is on Ecuador's sovereign territory by being in the embassy. Long added: "This has gone on long enough".

Julian Assange's Swedish lawyer Per E. Samuelson says it is a "day of victory" for the WikiLeaks founder after Sweden's top prosecutor dropped an investigation into a rape claim against him.

Samuelson tells The Associated Press that "this was consensual sex between two adults and nothing else", adding Assange was now "a free man".

"We've already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail", Sessions said. In that time, WikiLeaks has continued to release classified information, prompting an espionage investigation in the USA that still hangs over Assange.

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However, reporters have now gathered outside the Knightsbridge embassy in the expectation he could finally leave after four years and 334 days. "He is the only political prisoner in Western Europe".

Prosecutors said the interview sparked further investigations but "no further measures remaining that are possible to take in order to further the investigation".

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.

"So we won't make any statements on the issue of guilt". "My assessment is the transfer can not be carried out in a foreseeable future".

Ny says she has withdrawn a European arrest warrant.

The UK government declined to comment Friday on whether the US has asked for Assange's extradition, but last month US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Assange's arrest was a "priority".

The Australian activist sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy while on bail in 2012, over fears the Swedish investigation would result in him being extradited to the U.S. over leaked military documents and diplomatic cables.

The U.S. has not dropped its interest in Assange, and London Metropolitan Police were quick to say they will continue to enforce an outstanding arrest warrant for him.

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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".

British police kept up round-the-clock guard outside the embassy until December 2015, when the operation was scaled back, in part because of the cost, which had exceeded 11 million pounds (over $17.5 million at the time).

Assange is wanted by British police for extradition to Sweden.

After the Swedish announcement.

"The UK has refused to confirm or deny whether it has already received a United States extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to the UK", WikiLeaks tweeted. It is not clear if that may change now that the investigation has been dropped.

The country's director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, said the preliminary rape and sexual assault probe has been discontinued.

As NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, Assange has remained at the Ecuadorean Embassy for years out of fear that an extradition to Sweden would spell another extradition, in turn, to the US, "where he could face trial for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic and military documents". He has been there ever since, fearing that if he is arrested he might ultimately be extradited to the United States.

WikiLeaks awaits UK decision on Assange's status
American authorities have prepared charges to seek Arrange's arrest, CNN reported, citing USA officials familiar with the matter. Last month, President Donald Trump said he would support any decision by the Justice Department to charge Assange.

Not yet freedom for Assange, faces arrest in Britain