Rape inquiry dropped, WikiLeaks' Assange remains in embassy

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A lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange welcomed the decision of Swedish prosecutors today to drop a seven-year rape investigation against him, saying it was the "end of his nightmare". Assange believes the United States wants him extradited and arrested in connection with WikiLeaks' publication of classified US documents.

"Chief prosecutor Marianne Ny has today made a decision to discontinue the preliminary investigation regarding suspected rape concerning Julian Assange", the statement said.

In a statement issued here, the Swedish Prosecution Authority said that Marianne Ny "has discontinue the investigation" against the Australian computer programmer.

However, British police said he is still a wanted man for failing to surrender in the country in 2012.

Speaking from the balcony of Ecuador's London embassy, where he took refuge in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, Assange said his seven-year legal ordeal - which he called unjust detention - "is not something that I can forgive".

Despite the welcome news from Sweden, police in London said Friday that Assange is still wanted there for jumping bail in 2012. He did not take shouted questions from the reporters assembled outside and would not say if he plans to leave the embassy located in the posh Knightsbridge neighborhood.

Assange's Swedish lawyer Per E. Samuelson declared Friday that "this is a total victory for Julian Assange".

The letter raised developments in the United States since the election of Donald Trump as president, including a speech by CIA director Mike Pompeo describing WikiLeaks as a "hostile intelligence service".

Mr Assange thanked the government of Ecuador for granting him political asylum despite "intense pressure", as well as his legal team and others who had stood by him. He was on bail when he arrived at the Ecuador Embassy in Central London nearly five years ago. He said the day marked an "important victory", but noted that he still could be prosecuted by the United States.

Ecuador's foreign minister Guillaume Long said: "Ecuador regrets that the Swedish Prosecutor delayed more than four years in carrying out this interview". Ny said the case could be reopened if Assange comes to Sweden before the statute of limitations expires in 2020.

Officials said in a statement that, under Swedish law, investigations must be completed as quickly as possible and must be dropped "when a prosecutor has exhausted the possibilities".

"In order to proceed with the case, Julian Assange would have to be formally notified of the criminal suspicions against him", the statement reads in part.

A lawyer for the woman who alleged she was raped by Assange said "it's a scandal that a suspected rapist can avoid the judicial system and thus avoid a trial in court".

The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates to at least 2010, when the site first gained wide attention for posting thousands of files stolen by Manning.

"Consequently, there is no basis upon which to continue the investigation". She said the WikiLeaks founder had "tried to dodge all attempts at arrest" by British and Swedish authorities.

British police kept up a round-the-clock guard outside the embassy until December 2015, when the operation was scaled back partly because of the costs, which had exceeded 11 million pounds (over $17.5 million at the time). "Focus now moves to United Kingdom", the group tweeted.

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