Julian Assange emerges on embassy balcony to say he will not 'forgive or forget' as Swedish rape investigation is dropped 

Assange "can't forgive or forget" after case dropped Assange "can't forgive or forget" after case dropped
01:35
  • Sweden drops rape investigation against Julian Assange
  • Assange spoke 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 said he will remain inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to avoid extradition to the United States, despite being told he no longer faces a sex investigation by the Swedish authorities.

The WikiLeaks founder hailed the decision to discontinue the seven-year case against him as an "important victory", but said the "proper war was just commencing", after the Metropolitan Police said he would still be arrested if he stepped outside.

Assange, who has been holed up in the embassy since June 2012 is wanted by the British authorities after breaching bail conditions five years ago.

Addressing a crowd from the embassy's balcony in central London, Assange accused the UK authorities of ignoring international laws on asylum, a position he described as "untenable".

He said: “We have today won an important victory, but the road is far from over. The proper war is just commencing."

“The claim that the UK has the right to arrest me for seeking asylum in a case where there have been no charges is simply untenable.

“My legal staff have contacted the UK authorities and we hope to engage in a dialogue about what is the best way forward.”

But a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police explained there was still an outstanding warrant for his arrest over the breach of bail conditions and therefore he would be detained if he ventured out of the diplomatic building.

The maximum sentence for beraching bail is 12 months and legal sources said the courts might seek to make an example of him.

But Assange's greatest fear remains the possibility that he could still be extradited to the United States for his role in the publication of leaked classified material on the WikiLeaks website.

Last month, the American Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, said that Assange's arrest remained a priority for his department and if convicted he could be jailed for up to 45-years.

Prosecutors have reportedly been asked to outline possible charges against him and officials in Washington have insisted the case remains ongoing.

Last night the UK Home Office refused to confirm or deny whether the United States had already submitted an arrest warrant for Assange.

Asked if Britain would now support a request to extradite him to the United States, Prime Minister Theresa May said: "We look at extradition requests on a case-by-case basis. In relation to Julian Assange, any decision that is taken about UK action in relation to him were he to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy would be an operational matter for the police."

Outlining the current position a Scotland Yard spokesman said: "Westminster Magistrates' Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange following him failing to surrender to the court on June 29 2012.

“The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) 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 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."

The Metropolitan Police stopped its round the clock presence outside the Embassy in October 2015 amid controversy over the escalating cost of the exercise - believed to be more than £12 million.

A spokesman for the Ecuadorean government said it would now step up efforts to allow Assange to leave the embassy and take up an offer of asylum in its country.

 

 

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.

 

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".

Assange's cat

 

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.

This file photo taken on December 20, 2012 shows Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gesturing as he addresses members of the media and supporters from the window of the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge

"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."

 Julian Assange speaking from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London

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. 

Read more here. 

 

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. 

 

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.

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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 cat

 

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.

 

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".

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with a new companion in Ecuador's embassy in London

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.

This file photo taken on February 05, 2016 shows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

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.

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