UK Police Say Assange Still Faces Arrest

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Two years later, he sought sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and has lived in the tiny building ever since.

He sought asylum at the embassy over fears that if he is extradited to Sweden he would be sent onward to the US for prosecution over WikiLeaks' publication of secret documents, including thousands of USA diplomatic cables.

Prosecutors first interviewed Assange in November a year ago in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Lawyer David Allen Green, who has followed the case, tweeted: "Once outside embassy, Assange more at risk from any USA extradition attempt than if he had gone to Sweden".

It is not known if USA officials are seeking Mr Assange's arrest because of a possible sealed indictment.

Assange said his lawyers had contacted British authorities in the hope of starting a "dialogue" over his future, after the police said they would be "obliged" to execute an arrest warrant against him if he left the embassy.

It added: "The priority for the MPS must continue to be arresting those who are now wanted in the Capital in connection with serious violent or sexual offences for the protection of Londoners".

The police ended their round-the-clock guard outside the embassy in October 2015 but said they were strengthening a "covert plan" to prevent his departure.

"All prospects of pursuing the investigation are now exhausted", she said.

Ecuador's government asked the United Kingdom to give Mr Assange safe passage in order to allow him asylum in the South American nation. "He's not a US citizen", he said in a speech, according to CNN.

"Marianne Ny, has today chose to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange", the official statement read. "Focus now moves to UK", WikiLeaks said in a tweet after the announcement in Sweden. Minister Patino said that Assange would be prohibited from "making political statements that could affect [Ecuador's] relations with friendly countries".

Assange has spent almost five years inside the Latin American country's London embassy, but he seemed robust and defiant in his brief balcony appearance. He could have left the country then and there but stayed for a while, in case the authorities made a decision to question him again.

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The Crown Prosecution Service said that following the Swedish authorities' decision to drop the investigation, a European Arrest Warrant against him was discharged at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

He has been remanded in custody in absentia by Swedish authorities, who issued an arrest warrant relating to a 2010 rape allegation which Assange denies. The rape allegation, the more serious claim, remained under investigation.

She accused him of having sex with her - as she slept - without using a condom despite repeatedly having denied him unprotected sex.

June 12: Assange asks Supreme Court to reopen case.

Sweden's top prosecutor says "costs were not a reason for putting down the investigation" of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

A lawyer for the woman who alleged she was raped by Assange said "it's a scandal that a suspected rapist can avoid the judicial system and thus avoid a trial in court". "My client is shocked and no decision to (end the case) can make her change that Assange exposed her to rape".

Last month, the United States attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said the arrest of Assange was a "priority" after the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, described WikiLeaks as a "hostile intelligence service" and a threat to USA national security.

"It's not about money but redress", Samuelsson said.

Wikileaks gained notoriety in 2010 when it began to release vast amounts of secret information belonging to the USA government, including classified records on the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

WikiLeaks raised a storm in July 2016 by releasing emails showing US Democratic Party officials favouring Hillary Clinton over left-winger Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary elections, forcing high-ranking party members to resign.

The huge release of memos known as "cablegate", which embarrassed governments worldwide, would not have been possible had it not been for United States soldier Chelsea Manning, who handed WikiLeaks 700,000 classified documents. Manning had her sentence commuted by President Obama on his way out of office and was released earlier this week, but Assange reneged on his promise.

Katz reported from London.

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