Sweden Drops Julian Assange Rape Investigation
STOCKHOLM (CNN) -- Sweden is dropping its investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on rape allegations, according to a prosecution statement released Friday.
Assange, who has always denied wrongdoing, has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, in an effort to avoid a Swedish arrest warrant. Despite Friday's announcement, he's unlikely to walk out of the embassy imminently.
The Australian national has previously expressed concern that he could end up being extradited and facing the death penalty in the United States over allegations of revealing government secrets through his site, WikiLeaks.
US authorities have prepared charges to seek his arrest, US officials familiar with the matter told CNN last month.
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 the former US Army intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning.
On Friday, Sweden's chief prosecutor Marianne Ny told a news conference that the decision to discontinue the preliminary investigation had been made because "all possibilities to advance the investigation have now been exhausted."
However if Assange were to return to Sweden before the statute of limitations for the suspected offenses expires in August 2020, the investigation could be reopened, she added.
Following the Swedish statement, Assange tweeted an old image of himself smiling, but has not yet made any other comment.
What next for Assange?
Britain and the US have an extradition treaty, so if Assange leaves the embassy where he's claimed asylum, the British could arrest him and send him to the US to face charges.
The UK government declined to comment Friday on whether the US has asked for Assange's extradition, but last month US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Assange's arrest was a "priority."
Possible US charges aside, Assange is still subject to an arrest warrant in the UK after he failed to surrender to Westminster Magistrates' Court in June 2012, London's Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement on Friday.
However, it noted that now the Swedish authorities had dropped their investigation, Assange was "wanted for a much less serious offence" than before and said the force would "provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence."
It added: "The priority for the MPS must continue to be arresting those who are currently wanted in the Capital in connection with serious violent or sexual offences for the protection of Londoners."
(Photo by CNN Newsource)