Swedish prosecutors dropped rape and sexual assault charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday, removing an obstacle to the United States prosecuting him for leaking classified information.
Assange spent nearly seven years holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden on the charges. He feared the Swedes would hand him over to the United States.
After Ecuador withdrew his asylum earlier this year, British authorities arrested Assange for jumping bail. Swedish officials reopened the case against him but concluded the evidence in the alleged rape in 2010 was now too old to proceed.
“I would like to emphasize that the injured party has submitted a credible and reliable version of events,” Swedish prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said. “Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed; however, my overall assessment is that the evidential situation has been weakened to such an extent that there is no longer any reason to continue the investigation.”
A U.S. grand jury indicted Assange in May on 18 counts, including conspiring to obtain classified information and disclosing classified material after working with U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning to acquire reams of classified documents.
If Sweden had moved forward with the charges against Assange, British officials would have needed to determine which extradition request would take precedence. —A.K.W.