Swedes drop Assange investigation

SUBHEAD: Sweden’s public prosecutor discontinues the rape investigation into WikiLeaks founder.

By Esther Addley & Alan Travis on 19 MAy 2017 for the Guardian-

Image above: Photo from Ecuadorian Embassy in London of Julian Assange after hearing report of Sweden dropping charges against him.  From original article.

Swedish prosecutors have dropped their preliminary investigation into an allegation of rape against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, bringing an end to a seven-year legal standoff.

The decision was taken after prosecutors concluded that “at this point, all possibilities to conduct the investigation are exhausted”, Sweden’s director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, said on Friday.
“In order to proceed with the case, Julian Assange would have to be formally notified of the criminal suspicions against him. We cannot expect to receive assistance from Ecuador regarding this.
Therefore the investigation is discontinued.

“If he, at a later date, makes himself available, I will be able to decide to resume the investigation immediately.”

The WikiLeaks founder sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London in 2012 after losing court battles to avoid extradition to Sweden over the claims, which he denies.

Separate allegations of sexual assault, made by a second Swedish woman, were dropped by Swedish authorities in 2015 after the statute of limitations expired.

Shortly after the announcement on Friday morning, an image of Assange smiling was posted to his Twitter account.

Later he tweeted again: “Detained for 7 years without charge while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.”

However, a lawyer representing the woman who made the allegation of rape described the decision as a “scandal”.

“It is a scandal that a suspected rapist can escape justice and thereby avoid the courts,” Elisabeth Massi Fritz told Agence France-Presse in an email. “My client is shocked and no decision to [end the case] can make her change [her view] that Assange exposed her to rape.”

With the threat of extradition to Sweden removed, the 45-year-old Australian could potentially opt to leave the embassy.

However, Assange’s lawyers have repeatedly said he will not do so without assurances that he will not face extradition to the US over possible espionage charges linked to WikiLeaks’ publishing activities – the basis on which Ecuador granted him asylum.

The Metropolitan police in London said Assange would also face immediate arrest for breaching his bail conditions; a warrant was issued when he failed to attend a magistrates court after entering the embassy.

“The Metropolitan police service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy,” the statement said.

It added: “Whilst Mr Assange was wanted on a European arrest warrant (EAW) for an extremely serious offence, the MPS response reflected the serious nature of that crime.

Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence. The MPS will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offense.”

Per Samuelson, Assange’s Swedish lawyer, told reporters the decision represented a total victory.

“This is one of the happiest days of my legal career. The decision was taken because he was interrogated in November 2016 and could give a good explanation of what happened … This is obviously about consensual sex between two adults.”

Ecuador’s foreign minister, Guillaume Long, also welcomed the decision, adding that he “regrets that the Swedish prosecutor delayed more than four years in carrying out this interview. Given that the European arrest warrant no longer holds, Ecuador will now be intensifying its diplomatic efforts with the UK so that Julian Assange can gain safe passage, in order to enjoy his asylum in Ecuador.”

But Claes Borgström, the lawyer who originally represented Assange’s two accusers but is no longer involved in the case, said he found the decision regretful. He told the Guardian: “I understand why the prosecutors have dropped the case now.

Such a long time has passed. But I regret that Julian Assange was not brought to the Swedish court of law to answer the allegations against him.

“All the time since he left Sweden it has been in his hands. He decided to avoid the arms of justice. He didn’t want to come to court. He didn’t want to answer the allegations, so he decided to escape.”

The EAW against Assange was formally withdrawn at Westminster magistrates court on Friday morning, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed. The UK Home Office said the decision to drop the rape investigation was a matter for the Swedish authorities, and not one in which the British government had any involvement.

Reuters reported in March that a long-running US grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks had been expanded to include recent leaks of CIA documents, a move that Assange’s lawyers said strengthened the grounds for his asylum claim.

Assange was interviewed by Sweden’s deputy public prosecutor, Ingrid Isgren, in the embassy in November, following a lengthy diplomatic and legal impasse between the Swedish and Ecuadorian authorities.

Friday’s announcement in Sweden followed the Swedish government receiving a letter from the government of Ecuador which accused the prosecutor of “serious failure”, including a “lack of initiative” to complete inquiries.

The letter raised questions about developments in the US since the election of Donald Trump as president, including a speech by the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, describing WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service” and a threat to US national security.

Public declarations such as this constituted an “obvious risk” for Assange, the letter said.

The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said last month that arresting Assange was a priority. There are no charges against him, although media reports have suggested the US justice department is considering how to bring them.

“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.

Asked at a Conservative party campaign event in Edinburgh if the UK would now support a request to extradite Assange to the US, Theresa May said: “We look at extradition requests on a case-by-case basis.”

The prime minister added: “In relation to Julian Assange, any decision that is taken about UK action in relation to him were he to leave the Ecuadorian embassy would be an operational matter for the police.”

Lest we forget US to charge Assange

By Staff on 20 April 2017 for Aljazeera -

The arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a US "priority", Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said, as media reports indicated his office was preparing charges against the leaker.

"We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks," Sessions said at a news conference on Thursday in response to a reporter's question about a US priority to arrest Assange.

The justice department chief said a rash of leaks of sensitive secrets appeared unprecedented.
"This is a matter that's gone beyond anything I'm aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious," he said.

"Whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail."

Prosecutors in recent weeks have been drafting a memo that looks at charges against Assange and members of WikiLeaks that possibly include conspiracy, theft of government property and violations of the Espionage Act, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed US officials familiar with the matter.

Several other media outlets cited unnamed officials as saying US authorities were preparing charges against Assange.

Prosecutors had struggled to determine whether the First Amendment protected Assange from prosecution but had now found a way to move forward, officials told CNN.

The justice department declined to comment on the reports.

Assange, 45, has been holed up at the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012 trying to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces a rape allegation that he denies.

He fears Sweden would extradite him to the United States to face trial for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents that first gained attention in 2010.

Assange's case returned to the spotlight after WikiLeaks was accused of meddling in the US election last year by releasing a damaging trove of hacked emails from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic Party.

US officials say the emails were hacked with the aid of the Russian government in its bid to influence the US election.

Critics say their release late in the race helped to tip the November 8 election to Republican Donald Trump.

Trump and his administration have put heat on WikiLeaks after it embarrassed the Central Intelligence Agency last month by releasing a large number of files and computer code from the spy agency's top-secret hacking operations.

The documents showed how the CIA exploits vulnerabilities in popular computer and networking hardware and software to gather intelligence.

Supporters of WikiLeaks say it is practising the constitutional right of freedom of speech and the press.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo last week branded WikiLeaks a "hostile intelligence service," saying it threatens democratic nations and joins hands with dictators.

Pompeo focused on the anti-secrecy group and other leakers of classified information like Edward Snowden as one of the key threats facing the United States.

"WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service. It has encouraged its followers to find jobs at CIA in order to obtain intelligence ... And it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States, while seeking support from anti-democratic countries and organisations," said Pompeo.

"It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is - a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia."

In response to Thursday's report WikiLeaks reposted on Twitter an opinion piece written by Assange and published in the Washington Post earlier this month.

"WikiLeaks' sole interest is expressing constitutionally protected truths, which I remain convinced is the cornerstone of the United States' remarkable liberty, success and greatness," Assange wrote.

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