- Sweden drops rape investigation against Julian Assange
- Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London
- Case was dropped due to a lack of progress - prosecutors
- Met Police: Assange still wanted in UK for jumping bail
Julian Assange has appeared on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy to reiterate that he will not "forgive and forget" after Sweden's top prosecutor has said she has dropped a rape investigation into Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.
Director of Public Prosecution, Marianne Ny, said she had decided to discontinue the investigation against Mr Assange in a statement on Friday morning.
Juan Branco, a lawyer representing Mr Assange, said he would now seek political asylum in France, though did not elaborate on how the campaigner planned to get there without being arrested.
Mr Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, after allegations of rape were brought against him.
He appeared on the balcony of the embassy on Friday afternoon to say that he hopes to enter into a dialogue with the UK authorities and the US Department of Justice, and defended his rights as a publisher.
He tweeted on Friday afternoon: "Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget."
It remains unclear how the development will affect Mr Assange's risk of being extradited to the US if he leaves the embassy, which he has yet to do.
The Metropolitan Police released a statement saying that there was still a warrant out for his arrest after he failed to appear in court in June 2012.
When asked about what the next steps will be for Mr Assange, Prime Minister Theresa May said that it was a matter for the police.
The 45-year-old has always denied the sexual assault allegations and claimed they were part of a plot to see him extradited to the US over his involvement at WikiLeaks in the disclosure of vast numbers of secret cables.
The announcement 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.
Chelsea Manning and the right to publish
Mr Assange ended his statement by celebrating the release of Chelsea Manning, and defending his rights as a publisher.
He declined to answer questions that were being shouted up at him before going back inside the embassy.
Assange hopes to enter into "dialogue" with UK authorities
The WikiLeaks founder says his legal staff has "contacted UK authorities and hope to engage in dialogue about the best way forward."
He added: "To some extent the UK has been exploited by the process it entered with the EU when they agreed to extradition - a forced position the UK has been put into and the first part of that is over."
Mr Assange said he would be "happy" to talk with U.S. Department of Justice despite their threats.
Assange says the war is beginning
Mr Assange thanked the Ecuadorian embassy,as well as his legal team for working hard and for "no money and all the other people who have stood by me in this process."
He hailed today and "important victory" and "vindication" and said "the proper war is just commencing. The UK has says it will arrest me regardless".
Assange appears on balcony of Ecuadorian Embassy to address media and supporters
Mr Assange said: "Seven years of detention without charge - imprisoned under house arrest and almost five years in this embassy without sunlight.
"Seven years without charge while my children grew up without me."
Assange issues statement
Mr Assange tweeted that he was 'detained' for 7 years without charge while his name was slandered, saying he does 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) May 19, 2017
No sign of Assange as he tweets response
There has been no sign of the WikiLeaks founder, who is expected to make a statement within the next 30 minutes. However, he took to Twitter to post an excerpt of a news story about the dropped charges.
Theresa May: This is a police decision
Theresa May, asked about the fate of Mr Assange, says that it will be a decision for the police, not for the government.
Assange's cat reappears - but this time, without a tie
Outside the embassy, the general chatter was drowned out by a flurry of camera clicks as the resident cat made a reappearance, this time without its tie, writes Victoria Ward.
The cat has its own Twitter account @Embassycat, which declares that it lives with Assange and is interested in "counter purrveilance".
Accuser's lawyer: This is a scandal
"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," said Elisabeth Fritz, who represents the alleged rape victim.
Will Assange address the crowds?
Victoria Ward is at the Ecuadorian embassy. She reports:
Scores of journalists from across the globe - and a handful of curious tourists - have gathered outside the Ecuadorian embassy in Hans Crescent, Knightsbridge, just a stone's throw from Harrod's.
Throngs of cameras are pointed at the first floor balcony at which Assange first appeared to make a public statement in August 2012, shortly after he was granted asylum.
In February 2015 he reappeared, this time to denounce the British government which had criticised the UN for claiming he was being held in "arbitrary detention".
It is not yet known whether Assange will step out into the sunshine once again to publicly savour his victory.
Assange accuser is 'shocked'
The accuser of Julian Assange, who cannot be named for legal reasons, says she is "shocked" by the decision not to continue the rape investigation.
She said she stands by her accusation.
Legal expert: Risk of extradition to US has not gone away
"If the Swedish authorities withdraw the domestic warrant against Mr Assange then this would also result in the European arrest warrant being withdrawn and the extradition proceedings against Mr Assange would be discharged," says Edward Grange, an extraditions expert at Corker Binning.
However, there still exists an extant arrest warrant issued for Mr Assange by Westminster Magistrates’ Court for his failure to surrender to the court.
"Unless this is withdrawn, which is by no means a certainty just because the extradition proceedings are discharged, should Mr Assange step foot outside the Ecuadorian embassy he would be liable for arrest and, if arrested, would be likely to receive a custodial sentence for his deliberate failure to surrender.
There is also the risk of the USA seeking Mr Assange’s provisional arrest.
In either circumstance, the news today that the Swedish prosecutor has discontinued her investigation, will not result in Mr Assange walking free from the Ecuadorian embassy."
Assange 'will try to leave embassy and claim asylum in France'
Juan Branco, Mr Assange's lawyer, was asked by a France Info journalist whether he will stay in the embassy.
He replied: "He will now try to leave and to claim asylum in France."
There seems to be a major issue with this proposal - Mr Assange is wanted by the UK police for jumping bail, and will be arrested as soon as he steps out of the embassy.
So how Mr Assange intends to get to France remains unclear.
What we know so far about Julian Assange's case
The Telegraph's Henry Samuel has answered some of the key questions raised by today's announcement that Mr Assange's rape investigation has been dropped by Swedish prosecutors.
Assange 'will seek asylum in France'
Mr Assange's laywer has said in an interview with France Info that the WikiLeaks founder is seeking asylum in France.
Julian Assange va réclamer à la France l'asile politique dit Juan Branco, son avocat pic.twitter.com/elyGXDkwgC— franceinfo (@franceinfo) May 19, 2017
Assange's time in embassy 'has made him depressed'
In an interview in February 2016, psychologist Dr Jane McCartney said that the time Mr Assange has spent in the embassy has likely left him feeling isolated and depressed.
Assange's lawyer: This was a total victory for us
A defence lawyer acting for Mr Assange has just issued a statement calling the decision to drop the rape investigation "a total victory for us."
Assange's cat peers through embassy window
There has been no sign of Mr Assange so far today, but his cat has decided to make a brief appearance wearing a tie with hearts printed on it.
Assange still facing arrest in UK if he leaves embassy
According to a statement from the Met Police, Mr Assange still faces arrest for a lesser charge of jumping bail if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy.
Here is that statement in full:
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. The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy.
Whilst Mr Assange was wanted on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) for an extremely serious offence, the MPS response reflected the serious nature of that crime. Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence. The MPS will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence.
The MPS will not comment further on the operational plan.
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.
UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to UK.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 19, 2017
Timeline of rape allegations
Assange tweets smiling picture from embassy
The Twitter account @julianassange, which the Wikileaks founder runs from inside the Ecuadorian embassy, has just published this image.
The picture was retweeted by the actress Pamela Anderson, who has started a relationship with the Wikileaks founder.
Assange extradition risk remains unclear
Friday's announcement means Mr Assange is no longer under any investigation in Sweden.
British police said before the announcement that Mr Assange is still wanted in Britain for jumping bail.
It is not clear if that may change now that the investigation has been dropped.
'Serious failure' by Swedish prosecutors
Today'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.
US was reconsidering charges against Assange
According to the New York Times, the US Justice Department was also reconsidering its own charges against Mr Assange, linked to his decision to leak highly classified information which it said posed a major threat to national security.
An unnamed official told the New York Times that prosecutors were skeptical as to whether they could pursue the most serious charge of espionage.
Ecuadorian embassy had been concerned over 'lack of progress'
The government of Ecuador has voiced concerns about the "serious lack of progress" by the Swedish authorities in dealing with Mr Assange.
A letter has been sent to the Swedish government saying there has been a "serious failure" by the country's prosecutor, including a "lack of initiative" to complete inquiries.
Mr Assange has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost five years and has been granted political asylum.
He was questioned six months ago in the presence of Swedish officials over a sex 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.
The letter raises 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.