Sweden drops rape investigation into WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange

Natasha Lomas
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures from the window of a prison van as he is driven out of Southwark Crown Court in London on May 1, 2019, after having been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions in 2012. - A British judge on Wednesday sentenced WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions in 2012. Assange took refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden and was only arrested last month after Ecuador withdrew his asylum status. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Sweden has dropped an investigation into WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, on allegations of suspected rape.

In a statement today the country's prosecution authority said the evidence has "weakened considerably" in the almost a decade that's elapsed since the events in question.

"I would like to emphasise that the injured party has submitted a credible and reliable version of events. 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 that there is no longer any reason to continue the investigation," said Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden's deputy director of public prosecution.

The prosecutor had only announced in May that it was reopening an investigation into allegations of sexual offences which date back to August 2010. The investigation was earlier discontinued in 2017 but reopened at the request of the lawyer for the alleged victim following Assange's arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after the country withdrew diplomatic immunity.

After his arrest Assange was convicted for violating bail conditions and sent to Belmarsh prison in London where he remains.

He is now facing potential extradition to the US which quickly instigated extradition proceedings against him -- initially charging Assange with conspiracy to hack into a classified computer, and then additional charges under the Espionage Act.

The extradition hearing is due to take place in February 2020 after a UK judge denied a request by Assange's lawyers to delay proceedings to give him more time to prepare his defence.

When Assange fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 it was an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden. The WikiLeaks founder claimed he would be at risk of extradition to the US. But after spending some seven years of self-imposed incarceration in Knightsbridge he faces a major legal fight to stave off the same outcome.