WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said the dropping of his case by Sweden is an “important victory.
Speaking on the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy after the shock revelation that the rape investigation against him has been dropped, Mr Assange said it “by no means erases seven years of detention without charge.. and sunlight”.
“Seven years without charge while my children grew up without me.”
Almost five years after seeking political asylum at the embassy in London, Sweden’s Director of Public Prosecution confirmed the probe was over, seven years after it began.
The Ecuadorian government is set to step up efforts to allow him to continue his asylum.
Director of Public Prosecutions Marianne Nye said she had decided to “discontinue” the investigation into an alleged sex offence, although it is unlikely to lead to Mr Assange immediately leaving the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been living for almost five years.
Scotland Yard said it was obliged to execute a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court for the arrest of Mr Assange following his failure to surrender to the court in June 2012, should he leave the embassy.
Earlier, Mr Assange tweeted: “Detained for 7 years without charge while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.”
Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.
— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) 19 May 2017
He also tweet a picture of himself seemingly celebrating the news.
He was questioned six months ago in the presence of Swedish officials over a sex offence allegation, which he has always denied.
Mr Assange faces extradition to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks if he leaves the embassy.
WikiLeaks tweeted this morning: ‘UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to UK.
A brief statement ahead of today’s press conference said: “Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange.”
Friday’s development follows a letter sent to the Swedish government by the government of Ecuador saying there had been a “serious failure” by the prosecutor, including a “lack of initiative” to complete inquiries.
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”.
Recent public declarations such as this constitute an “obvious risk” for Mr Assange, said the letter.
Mr Assange originally faced three sex allegations, all of which he denied.
Mr Assange was on bail when he arrived at the Ecuador embassy in Central London almost five years ago.
A United Nations panel has confirmed its view that the WikiLeaks founder is a victim of arbitrary detention.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention rejected a request by the UK Government to review the case.
The panel found that Britain and Sweden had “arbitrarily detained” Mr Assange.
The panel said he should be freed and entitled to compensation.
Here are some of the more unusual things that have happened to the 45-year-old Australian during his time inside the building in upmarket Knightsbridge.
The former Baywatch star and Playboy model was spotted delivering lunch to him at the embassy in October last year and then again in February this year, saying she was “concerned” about his health and his family.
“I just hope that by some miracle he’s set free,” she told the Press Association.
Ms Anderson later wrote about Mr Assange on her blog in a long message which was accompanied by a photo of him, saying: “My relationship with Julian – it’s no secret. He is one of my favourite people and he might be the most famous, most politicised refugee of our time.”
His row with book publisher Canongate
Mr Assange tried but failed in his attempt to block the release of his autobiography in 2011, following disagreement with publisher Canongate Books.
After reportedly giving 50 hours of interviews about his life and the work of WikiLeaks to his Scottish ghost-writer Andrew O’Hagan, Mr Assange had a change of heart and wanted to cancel his contract for the memoir after reading a first draft of the book.
But the Edinburgh-based publisher decided to put the book on sale against his wishes under the title Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography, saying in a statement: “We have decided to honour that contract and to publish. Once the advance has been earned out, we will continue to honour the contract and pay Julian royalties.”
His bow tie-wearing cat
Last year, when Mr Assange began a three-day interview in the confines of the embassy over a sexual assault allegation, a cat made a rather dapper appearance at the window dressed in a collar and tie.
The feline, who has been living in the building since his children gave him the pet in May last year, is the subject of an unverified Twitter account which says she is “interested in counter-purrveillance”.
She also made a recent window appearance as it was announced that Marianne Nye, Sweden’s Director of Public Prosecution, had decided to drop her investigation against Mr Assange.
Mr Assange refused to meet actor Benedict Cumberbatch who played him the film The Fifth Estate because he believed it would only help destroy his organisation.
Mr Assange claimed the Dreamworks production was based on a “toxic” book and believed the film would “distort events and subtract from public understanding” of his work – after Mr Cumberbatch wrote to him requesting a meeting because he wanted a chance to study Mr Assange‘s mannerisms.
In a letter to Mr Cumberbatch, which was later made public, he wrote: “There are dozens of positive books about WikiLeaks, but Dreamworks decided to base its script only on the most toxic.”
:: Famous faces visiting his home
Ever since Mr Assange secured asylum, he has had a stream of high-profile celebrities and famous faces visiting his residence. As well as Ms Anderson, Lady Gaga, Vivienne Westwood, John Cusack, Eric Cantona, Michael Moore and reportedly Nigel Farage have visited the building in SW1.
Mr Farage was spotted leaving the embassy in March, but refused to say whether he had met Mr Assange.
Lady Gaga first met Mr Assange back in 2012, after launching a perfume at the Harrods department store which is next to the embassy.
She has since been a supporter of Mr Assange, saying “you may be an enemy of the state but you are not an enemy of humanity” in a video that was released by WikiLeaks to mark Chelsea Manning’s release from prison.
A random stranger scaling the walls of the embassy
In August last year, a man scaled scaled a wall at the Ecuadorian embassy a few months after Scotland Yard called off its multimillion-pound 24-hour surveillance of the embassy.
Cameras were later installed in the building.
The Times later reported his hosts believed the intruder to be an “external lunatic” or a “lunatic from within” one of his organisations.