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Swedish prosecutor drops Assange rape investigation

File photo taken May 1, 2019 of Julian Assange at the window of a van taking him to prison.
File photo taken May 1, 2019 of Julian Assange at the window of a van taking him to prison. Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP

Sweden's prosecution authority said Tuesday it had dropped its investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over a 2010 rape allegation, even though prosecutors found the plaintiff's claim "credible".

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"My assessment is that all investigative measures that can be taken have been taken. But... the evidence is not strong enough to file an indictment," deputy director of public prosecutions Eva-Marie Persson told reporters.

Assange, a 48-year-old Australian citizen, has repeatedly denied the allegation against him, made in 2010.

The investigation was launched after a Swedish woman who met Assange at a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm accused him of having unprotected sex with her while she was sleeping. She said she had previously repeatedly refused to have unprotected sex with him.

The statute of limitations in the case was to expire in August 2020.

Decision can be appealed, says prosecutor

The decision to drop the rape investigation heads off a possible dilemma for the British courts, which could potentially have had to decide between competing extradition requests from the United States and Sweden. However, the prosecutor said the decision to drop the investigation could be appealed.

Assange is being held in a British jail pending a hearing in February 2020 on extradition to the United States, which wants the WikiLeaks founder over 18 criminal counts including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law.

He was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London in April this year after spending almost seven years holed up there to avoid extradition on the Swedish allegations. Since then, he has served a British jail sentence for skipping bail. 

Espionage charges in the US

Swedish authorities closed the rape investigation in 2017, saying it was not possible to proceed as Assange could not be reached. But the case was reopened following his arrest.

In September, prosecutors said they had interviewed seven witnesses over the summer in a bid to move the inquiry forward.

Assange is also fighting a US bid to extradite him from Britain on charges filed under the Espionage Act that could see him given a sentence of up to 175 years in a US prison.

Most of those charges relate to obtaining and disseminating classified information over his website WikiLeaks publishing military documents and diplomatic cables.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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