Swedish prosecutors will not pursue their rape investigation of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange any further, they announced, having successfully fulfilled their role in the years-long scheme to put Assange behind bars.
Investigators determined the evidence was simply not strong enough to support an indictment, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson told a press conference on Tuesday. Interviewing Julian Assange regarding the case would not change this assessment, she said.
“The reason for this decision is that the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”
The Prosecution Authority noted that, while the victim was considered credible, oral testimony regarding the case had “weakened” and that corroborating evidence was not strong enough to pursue the case.
Assange is currently being held in a UK prison. In May, he received a 50-week sentence on a seven-year-old bail-jumping charge stemming from his decision to leave Sweden – with authorities’ permission, which was later rescinded – during the rape investigation. A Swedish arrest warrant was first issued in 2010, after he left the country; when a UK court upheld a decision to extradite him to Sweden in 2012, he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he lived for seven years. He is fighting in court to avoid extradition to the United States, where he faces espionage and hacking charges that could put him away for the rest of his life, and is suffering from severe health problems that have drawn international concern over his treatment. Swedish authorities reopened the rape investigation following his arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy in April.
The Prosecution Authority said that its decision could be appealed.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said that the focus should now move on to the “threat” that Assange has been “warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment.”
Commentators speculated that by dropping the charges, Sweden may actually be paving the way for Assange’s extradition to the United States.
The Australian journalist has repeatedly denied the allegations against him, which were first made in 2010.
Although branded a criminal by Washington, Assange enjoys support from a broad international coalition of activists and civil liberties groups. One of his most vocal defenders, Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, recently told RT that Assange is being made an example of in hopes of deterring other journalists from pursuing the truth and challenging those in power.