UK Makes Formal Protest To Ecuador Over Assange

UK Makes Formal Protest To Ecuador Over Assange

Sweden has formally dropped its investigation into some of the allegations against Julian Assange because it has run out of time to bring forward charges.

Prosecutors have been investigating claims of rape and sexual assault against the Wikileaks founder that allegedly took place in August 2010 - but they have now been forced to drop their pursuit of the sexual assault allegations.

Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said Ecuador's decision to harbour Mr Assange in their London embassy "has prevented the proper course of justice".

Hugo Swire, a Minister of State, has confirmed that the British ambassador in Quito will be making a formal protest to the Ecuadorian government, and warned the situation was "being seen as a growing stain on the country's reputation".

He added: "It is completely unacceptable that the British taxpayer has had to foot the bill for this abuse of diplomatic relations.

"I want to make clear that as an allegation of abuse remains outstanding, the UK continues to have a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden."

Earlier, Swedish prosecutors had said in a statement: "Julian Assange, on his own accord, has evaded prosecution by seeking refuge in the embassy of Ecuador".

"As the statute of limitation has run on some of the crimes, I am compelled to discontinue the investigation with respect to these crimes.

"I regret having to say that this means there will be no closure with regard to these events, as we have not been able to interview the suspect."

But Jen Robinson, who is a member of the Assange legal team, has rejected those comments and criticised the conduct of the investigation.

"Julian has not 'evaded' this investigation. He has continually offered his testimony and co-operation, and agreed unconditionally to being questioned in the embassy," she said.

"The prosecutor bears the onus of progressing the investigation and she has failed to do so."

The Swedish Prosecution Authority said it would continue to investigate claims of rape against the 44-year-old Australian. It has a further five years to do so.

Thomas Olsson, who is another member of Mr Assange's legal team, has told Sky News he now expects a "development" in that investigation.

"Hopefully there will be some sort of development that will lead to that whole investigation (being) shut down," he said.

Mr Assange, who has been living in Ecuador's London embassy since June 2012, said he was "extremely disappointed" that Swedish prosecutors never heard his full version of events.

He insists that he offered to be interviewed inside the embassy and that a suggested date in June was cancelled by the Swedish authorities.

His mother, Christine, said her son had been "cruelly" treated and denied a proper legal process.

"I can only describe the behaviour of the Swedish prosecutor as wicked, truly wicked," she said.

"For five years she has knowingly perverted justice, causing great harm to Julian, his family and the relations between Sweden, the UK and Ecuador.

"She is the one who should be prosecuted."

Mr Assange has not left the embassy because he fears being extradited to the United States where he could be tried for publishing secret military and diplomatic documents through his Wikileaks site.