Swedish prosecutor to drop rape probe against WikiLeaks's Assange

Swedish prosecutors said on Friday they would drop a preliminary investigation into an allegation of rape against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday, bringing to an end a 7-year legal stand-off.

Swedish prosecutors Friday said they would drop a seven-year rape investigation into Julian Assange, a legal victory for the WikiLeaks founder who has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012.

"Director of Public Prosecution, Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape by Julian Assange," the prosecutor's office said in a statement. 

The 45-year-old Australian denies the 2010 allegations which he fears will see him extradited to the United States and tried over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents.

Assange was questioned in November in the presence of a Swedish prosecutor. He has repeatedly reiterated his innocence and said the sex was consensual. 

Ny and Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren are set to hold a press conference on the decision at 12:00 (1000 GMT) on Friday.

The investigation has suffered from endless procedural complications since it began in 2010. 

The statute of limitations on the rape allegation was due to expire in August 2020.

Mr Assange faces extradition to the US for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks if he leaves the embassy.

He feared being extradited to the US if he was sent to Sweden.

London's Metropolitan Police Service then issued a statement saying he remained wanted for a less serious offence.

"Westminster Magistrates' Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange following him failing to surrender to the court on the 29 June 2012," it said.

"The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy."

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said any decision about Assange would be an operational matter for the police.

While lawyers believe Assange's legal challenges are far from over.

Assange accuser 'shocked', maintains accusations: lawyer

The woman who has accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of rape has slammed the decision by Swedish prosecutors to drop an investigation as a "scandal" and said she was "shocked", her lawyer said Friday. 

"It is a scandal that a suspected rapist can escape justice and thereby avoid the courts... my client is shocked and no decision to (end the case) can make her change that Assange exposed her to rape," the plaintiff's lawyer Elisabeth Fritz said in a statement.

Dateline: Assange's legal limbo

Source: AFP, Reuters, SBS News

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