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Swedish Prosecutors Partially End Investigation of Assange on Sex Crimes

Swedish prosecutors dropped two charges because the statute of limitations ran out.

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For five years, Swedish prosecutors have been trying to interview Julian Assange about allegations of sexual misconduct and rape. That effort has been comic in its ineffectiveness, with Assange fighting extradition from the United Kingdom and then taking refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London. On Thursday, the case saw its latest anticlimactic turn: Swedish prosecutors announced they will end their investigation into the sexual assault claims because that statute of limitations has run out.

Assange remains in the embassy, where he has been hiding since 2012, and Swedish prosecutors said they would continue their inquiry into the rape claims. On that aspect of their investigation, the statute of limitations doesn’t run out until 2020.

In a statement, prosecutor Marianne Ny said she was disappointed that the statute of limitations had run out but added she is hopeful to still have the chance to interview Assange, given ongoing talks between Sweden and Ecuador on judicial cooperation.

For his part, Assange attacked Swedish prosecutors. “I am extremely disappointed. There was no need for any of this,” he said in a statement Thursday. “I am an innocent man. I haven’t even been charged. From the beginning, I offered simple solutions. Come to the embassy to take my statement, or promise not to send me to the United States. This Swedish official refused both.”

The charges in question stem from sexual encounters with two women during a 2010 visit to Sweden by Assange. The WikiLeaks founder maintains he had consensual sex with the two women. The women have told Swedish police that Assange forced himself upon them and refused to wear a condom during sex.

Assange has refused to cooperate with the investigation, and has refused to return to Sweden because he fears Swedish authorities will deport him to the United States. A grand jury has reportedly been empaneled in Virginia to bring charges against Assange for his role in publishing U.S. government secrets.

Separately, U.K. authorities said Thursday they will deliver a formal complaint to Ecuador for harboring Assange. “Ecuador must recognize that its decision to harbor Mr. Assange more than three years ago has prevented the proper course of justice,” said Hugo Swire, British state minister for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, according to the BBC. “It is completely unacceptable that the British taxpayer has had to foot the bill for this abuse of diplomatic relations.”

So far, British authorities have spent just short of $20 million policing the embassy where Assange has taken refuge and waiting to act on the warrant for his arrest.

Photo credit: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

 

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering cyberspace. @EliasGroll

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