Sweden on Tuesday dropped its investigation into an alleged rape by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is in prison in Britain.
Assange, who is battling extradition to the United States, which accuses him of publishing secret documents related to his WikiLeaks work, has been facing potential charges in Sweden since 2010. The 48-year-old has denied all allegations against him.
Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said the case was being dropped because “the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”
She said the alleged victim, who accused Assange of raping her in 2010, “submitted a credible and reliable version of events.”
“Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed,” Persson said.
Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer for the alleged victim — a Swedish woman who was never identified — told Swedish broadcaster SVT that “the plaintiff’s information is supported by heavy written evidence plus verbal evidence in the form of doctors who examined the plaintiff.”
“To me that would be sufficient,” she said.
“However, the current prosecutor has done a thorough and solid job and she should be commended for that,” Massi Fritz wrote according to Swedish news agency TT.
The decision follows a ruling in June by a Swedish court that Assange should not be detained. Two months earlier, Assange was evicted from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he had been living since 2012. He was immediately arrested and is serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for jumping bail in 2012.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor in chief, wrote on Twitter that the focus should now move on to the “threat” that Assange has been “warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment.”
Assange has been battling potential charges in Sweden since August 2010, when an investigation began after two women accused him of sexual offenses during a visit to Stockholm. Sweden asked Britain to extradite Assange for questioning, and in June 2012 he sought refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid arrest. That was granted two months later.
After that, the investigation stalled. Swedish prosecutors dropped cases of alleged sexual misconduct when the statute of limitations ran out in 2015, leaving only the rape allegation.
While denying the sexual misconduct allegations in Sweden, he sought asylum for protection from possible extradition to the U.S.
Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum status in April 2019. He was arrested by British police and sentenced in May to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail in 2012. He remains in prison after authorities ruled he was a flight risk and faces a hearing next year on potential extradition to the U.S. to face spying charges.