As Sweden drops investigation, Met police say WikiLeaks founder still faces arrest for breaching bail conditions on entering Ecuadorian embassy
Word outside the Ecuadorian embassy is that Assange will make a statement at 4.3opm, writes Haroon Siddique. In the meantime we are going to pause the blog. Thanks for reading so far.
Barry J Pollack, the lawyer who represents Assange in the US, told the Guardian that the Swedish decision “only highlights the fact Mr Assange has been unlawfully detained for years”, writes Esther Addley.
He added: “Recent comments by the United States Attorney General and Director of the CIA demonstrate the obvious need of Mr Assange for asylum. The UK has no legitimate basis to interfere with Ecuador’s lawful decision.”
Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, recently said arresting Assange was a “priority” for the US, while Mike Pompeo, CIA director, described Wikileaks as a “hostile intelligence service”.
While we wait for Assange to appear, here’s a summary of how things stand:
David Leigh, the Guardian’s former investigations editor who worked with Assange over the leaked US embassy cables, has dismissed US rhetoric about arresting the Wikileaks founder.
Leigh was asked by BBC News about US Attorney Jeff Sessions claiming that arresting Assange was a priority. “Well that’s all just noise, ” Leigh replied.
He said: “The fact is that there is no official extradition request that has been made known from the US to the UK to get hold of Julian Assange. The Obama administration had probably dropped the idea of arresting and extraditing Assange.
“Then his antics during the Trump campaign [when] he leaked material maybe supplied by the Russians to discredit the Democrats, helped get Trump in. It now appears to be the Trump administration who are acting in a pretty hostile way. So that is very ironic.”
There may be no sign yet of Assange at the windows of the Ecuadorian embassy, but he does appear to be following this blog.
Claes Borgström, who originally represented the two women but who is no longer involved in the case, has expressed regret that Assange will not be prosecuted in Sweden, writes Amelia Gentleman.
“For the two women it would have been good if he had been examined in court. He will now never be found not guilty, ” Borgström said.
He said one of the women, the one whom he represented most recently, “is not interested in making any comment or doing any interviews. It is so long ago now. She has tried to put that behind her and live a normal life. She doesn’ t want to be reminded of what happened.”
He added: “I understand why the prosecutors have dropped the case now. Such a long time has passed. But I regret that Julian Assange was not brought to the Swedish court of law to answer the allegations against him.”
Julian Knowles, a Matrix chambers barrister who specialises in extradition says the US might to have to act swiftly if they want to arrest Assange.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 he said the complicating factor in Assange’s case is that he has committed a bail act offence by failing to surrender to court. He said
Asked about the US attempts to extradite Assange, Knowles said:
Assange has fired off a new tweet saying he does not “forget or forgive”.
Meanwhile, journalists are still waiting for him to speak at the embassy.
Vaughan Smith, the former army officer who housed Assange in his Norfolk mansion in 2010 after he was bailed, says Assange should now be allowed to walk free.
Smith, who spoke to Assange earlier this month, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme that the Wikileaks founder had complained of a lack of progress by Swedish prosecutors.
“He felt that Marianne Ny was aiming to protect her reputation because she didn’ t have the evidence against him, ” he said.
Smith added: I feel very pleased. One feels a bit vindicated, as do the supporters that have stuck by Julian. I can completely understand why Julian felt this was politically motivated. We should be asking ourselves has there been a political misuse of the judicial process. He added:
Ecuador’s foreign minister Guillaume Long has welcomed the Swedish decision and confirmed that his country will now try to secure safe passage for Assange.
He said he “regrets that the Swedish prosecutor delayed more than four years in carrying out this interview”.
He described the conduct of prosecutors as “wholly unacceptable… which has led to unnecessary delays in progressing this case.
“Given that the European arrest warrant no longer holds, Ecuador will now be intensifying its diplomatic efforts with the UK so that Julian Assange can gain safe passage, in order to enjoy his asylum in Ecuador.”
Prof Mads Andenas who chaired the UN working group which claimed that Assange’s plight in the embassy amounted to arbitrary detention, welcomed Sweden’s decision. He said:
Assange’s accuser called the prosecutor’s decision a “scandal”, her lawyer has said.
“It is a scandal that a suspected rapist can escape justice and thereby avoid the courts, ” the lawyer, Elisabeth Fritz, told AFP in an email.
“My client is shocked and no decision to [end the case] can make her change [her view] that Assange exposed her to rape, ” she said.
Theresa May appears to be trying to keep her distance from Assange’s fate.
Asked if Britain would now support a request to extradite Assange to the United States, the prime minister said: “We look at extradition requests on a case-by-case basis.”
Speaking at a Conservative campaign event in Edinburgh, May added: “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.”
There has been no sign of Julian Assange emerging from the Ecuadorian embassy yet, much to the frustration of the 70-plus members of the press gathered outside, writes Haroon Siddique.
A throng has gathered under the balcony where Assange has previously addressed the media, in 2015 and 2012 on the day he first entered.
A police car with three officers inside is parked opposite the building in Knightsbridge, London, presumably ready to arrest the WikiLeaks founder on charges of skipping bail, which the Met has said he is still wanted for.
More police cars and officers are stationed nearby. The most excitement so far came when the embassy cat, which even has its own Twitter account, made a brief appearance in the window, the cue for the waiting, bored photographers to start clicking.
Glenn Greenwald, the former Guardian journalist who worked with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, points out that Assange is far from free.
Writing on the Intercept he says: “ The termination of the Swedish investigation is, in one sense, good news for Assange. But it is unlikely to change his inability to leave the embassy any time soon. If anything, given the apparent determination of the Trump administration to put him in a US prison cell for the ‘crime’ of publishing documents, his freedom appears farther away than it has since 2010, when the Swedish case began.”
The Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed to the Guardian that the European arrest warrant against Assange has been dropped after Sweden’s request.
Ecuador says it will now seek safe passage for Assange from its embassy in London to Ecuador, a source close to the case at the Ecuadorian foreign ministry told PA.
It quoted the source saying: “Given that the European arrest warrant no longer holds, Ecuador will now be intensifying its diplomatic efforts with the UK so that Julian Assange can gain safe passage in order to enjoy his asylum in Ecuador.”
The source also said:
© Source: https://www.theguardian.com/media/live/2017/may/19/julian-assange-rape-inquiry-dropped-live
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