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20 May 2017, 01:53 | Darnell Patrick
Julian Assange rape charges dropped, but he still faces arrest
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange moved closer to freedom Friday after Swedish prosecutors moved to drop a rape investigation against him, leaving the door open for him to emerge from his self-imposed exile in a London embassy.
The 45-year-old sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012, after exhausting options in United Kingdom courts to avoid extradition over the allegations stemming from a 2010 trip to Sweden.
He sought asylum at the embassy over fears that if he is extradited to Sweden he would be sent onward to the US for prosecution over WikiLeaks' publication of secret documents, including thousands of USA diplomatic cables. Ny said she will call back the European arrest warrant on Assange.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has suggested that the arrest of Assange could be an American priority, saying last month the US was "stepping up our efforts on all leaks".
The Metropolitan Police in London said, however, that they still planned to carry out a warrant issued after Mr. Assange failed to surrender in June 2012, and that it was "obliged" to execute the warrant if he were to leave the Ecuadorean Embassy.
In a post on Twitter, WikiLeaks said that Britain had refused to confirm or deny whether it had received an extradition warrant for Mr. Assange.
"In view of the fact that all prospects of pursuing the investigation under present circumstances are exhausted, it appears that it is no longer proportionate to maintain the arrest of Julian Assange in his absence".
Julian Assange's lawyer is asking French president Emmanuel Macron to intervene in support of the WikiLeaks founder.
The Swedish Prosecution Authority said Friday that chief Marianne Ny "has made a decision to discontinue the investigation".
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Mr Assange's lawyer, Per E. Samuelson, told Swedish media that Mr Assange could leave the embassy. It does not clear Assange's name, however, and some experts say it puts him into an even more precarious legal situation if the USA has - as some suspect - a sealed indictment for his arrest.
WikiLeaks has generated global controversy by publishing confidential and damaging information from the United States and other countries. "Focus now moves to United Kingdom", the group tweeted.
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.
Mr Assange has denied that he was given the leaked documents by Russian Federation, although he has refused to say where he got them. The South American country has granted him asylum, but it is not clear how Assange would travel there without the permission of British authorities.
"The decision to discontinue the preliminary investigation is not because we've been able to make a full assessment of the evidence in this case, but because we didn't see any possibilities to advance the investigation forward".
Mr. Assange has said that he met his accuser in August 2010 during a trip to Sweden.
Prime Minister Theresa May earlier said any extradition case would be looked at on a "case-by-case basis". There were initially two separate allegations being investigated, but one was dropped in 2015 because the statute of limitations ran out. 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.
Russia's role remains the subject of multiple investigations by congressional intelligence committees and the FBI, which has said it's looking into whether any associates of Trump had contact or colluded with Russian government operatives.
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