Sweden has dropped its rape and assault investigation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Sweden has dropped its rape and assault investigation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Stockholm,May19:Sweden has dropped its investigation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, prosecutors have announced.

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

Mr Assange reacted to the news by tweeting a photo of himself smiling inside the Ecuadorian Embassy where he has been living for almost five years.

WikiLeaks said an arrest warrant issued for Mr Assange would be revoked, sparking speculation he would be leaving the London embassy.

A spokesperson for WikiLeaks claimed the British government “refuses to confirm or deny” whether it has received a US extradition warrant, adding: “Focus now moves to UK.”

The Home Office and Metropolitan Police did not immediately reply to The Independent‘s request for information on Mr Assange’s status, although it is understood that he could be arrested for skipping bail when he fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy.

The Austrian activist sought asylum there in 2012 over fears the Swedish investigation would result in him being extradited to the US over leaked military documents and diplomatic cables.

The Ecuadorian government had sent Sweden a letter saying there had been a “serious failure” by the prosecutor, including a “lack of initiative” to complete inquiries.

It raised developments in the US since the election of Donald Trump as President, including a speech by CIA director Mike Pompeo describing WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service”.

The letter argued that recent public declarations constituted an “obvious risk” for Mr Assange, who originally faced three sexual assault charges that he denied.

 The UN had called on Swedish and British authorities to free Mr Assange from “arbitrary detention” in a report released last year, although the findings were not legally binding.

As the Swedish investigation continued in December 2010, Mr Assange was jailed in Wandsworth Prison in isolation for 10 days and then put under house arrest for 550 days under powers granted by an international arrest warrant.

Scotland Yard stood down the 24/7 police presence outside the Ecuadorian Embassy building in 2015 but pledged to make “every effort” to arrest Mr Assange if he left.

The provision is likely to be removed with the lifting of Sweden’s international arrest warrant.

It comes after Chelsea Manning, who provided WikiLeaks with classified intelligence on Iraq and Afghanistan that shocked the world, was freed from prison.

The transgender former US intelligence analyst left Fort Leavenworth on Wednesday, months after Barack Obama commuted her 35-year sentence as one of his final acts as President.