Swedish prosecutors announced Friday that they were dropping their investigation into the multiple rape allegations made against Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder appeared defiant as he gave a rousing victory speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has been holed up for nearly five years. He vowed that he would never forget what had been done to him.
The legal threats surrounding Assange are certainly less potent now than they were before, but his path is by no means clear. Britain still holds a warrant for his arrest. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that putting Assange behind bars is one of the administration’s highest priorities.
“But it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge under house arrest and almost five years here in this embassy without sunlight,” Assange said Friday after learning that Sweden was abandoning its case against him. “Seven years without charge while my children grow up without me. That is not something I can forgive. It is not something I can forget.”
“The proper war is just commencing,” he told the crowd of spectators outside the embassy. “The UK has said it will arrest me regardless. The US CIA Director (Mike) Pompeo and the US attorney general have said that I and other WikiLeaks staff have no … First Amendment rights, that my arrest and the arrest (of) my other staff is a priority. That is not acceptable.”
Assange faces a warrant in Britain for failing to show up to court. The London police force has repeatedly assured journalists that if Assange ever attempts to leave the embassy he will be promptly arrested. Thus his claim that the “war” is just beginning.
“We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” Sessions said last month of Assange’s possible arrest. “This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of…So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”
It’s unclear, however, if the U.S. has actually filed charges against Assange. Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, last month accused the Justice Department of blocking information.
“We’ve had no communication with the Department of Justice and they have not indicated to me that they have brought any charges against Mr. Assange,” Pollack said.
“They’ve been unwilling to have any discussion at all, despite our repeated requests, that they let us know what Mr. Assange’s status is in any pending investigations. There’s no reason why WikiLeaks should be treated differently from any other publisher.”
Swedish prosecutors insist that the charges against Assange were not dropped because of a belief in his innocence, rather, it was decided that there was no realistic way to bring him to trial. Every available avenue has already been explored. Assange has been sitting pretty in the embassy for years now, out of reach of the governments seeking to nab him.
“The decision to discontinue the preliminary investigation is not because we’ve been able to make a full assessment of the evidence in this case, but because we didn’t see any possibilities to advance the investigation forward. So we don’t make any statements on the issue of guilt,” Sweden’s chief prosecutor Marianne Ny said.
Assange has become one of the most controversial figures alive. Some laud him as a hero while others excoriate his actions and believe that he represents the worst kind of traitor. President Trump indicated after his inauguration that he would concede to Sessions’ decision on the matter.
“A legal examination is very important for someone who has been raped, as is the possibility for redress,” Elizabeth Massi Fritz, an attorney representing one of Assange’s accusers said. “In this case, there have been many turns and the wait has been very long. My client is shocked and no decision to shut the case down can get her to change her position that Assange raped her.”
It’s unclear what Assange’s next move will be.