Sweden has dropped their preliminary investigation into the 2010 rape charges made against Julian Assange. Glenn Greenwald reports that this does not mean that he is free to leave the Ecuadoran embassy in London because there is still the fact that the US seeks to bring him to the US for the ‘crime’ of WikiLeaks publishing US government documents. He reminds us that this is why Ecuador granted Assange asylum in their embassy in 2012 in the first place, not to prevent him facing trial on rape charges.
Ecuador’s rationale for granting asylum to Assange has often been overlooked. Ecuadorian officials, along with Assange’s supporters, have always insisted that they wanted the investigation in Sweden to proceed, and vowed that Assange would board the next plane to Stockholm if Sweden gave assurances that it would not extradite him to the U.S. to face charges relating to WikiLeaks’ publication of documents. It was Sweden’s refusal to issue such guarantees – and Ecuador’s fears that Assange would end up being persecuted by the U.S. – that has been the basis for its asylum protections.
After years of refusing Assange’s offers to interview him in the embassy, Swedish prosecutors finally agreed to do so last November. But the Swedes’ last hope for advancing the case seemed to evaporate last month, when the candidate of the ruling party in Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, won a narrow victory over his right-wing opponent, who had vowed to terminate Assange’s asylum.
With the new president signaling that Assange’s asylum would continue indefinitely, there was virtually nothing else for prosecutors to do.
I am unaware of Swedish law and do not understand why they acted in the way they did. Apart from refusing to give assurances that they would not allow him to be extradited to the US, the way they conducted this whole thing is puzzling to me.
The decision was taken after prosecutors concluded that “at this point, all possibilities to conduct the investigation are exhausted”, Sweden’s director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, said on Friday.
“In order to proceed with the case, Julian Assange would have to be formally notified of the criminal suspicions against him. We cannot expect to receive assistance from Ecuador regarding this. Therefore the investigation is discontinued.
“If he, at a later date, makes himself available, I will be able to decide to resume the investigation immediately.”
As far as I am aware, Assange and Ecuador had always been agreeable to him being questioned by Swedish investigators in the embassy but Sweden had availed themselves of that opportunity only last November. But even if Assange declined to talk to them, surely the prosecutors could still have brought charges against him if they felt they had a case? Couldn’t they have issued the formal notification when they met him in the embassy? At least in the US, charges can be filed and arrest warrants issued even if the accused cannot be reached or even if the location is unknown or invokes the Fifth Amendment and refuses to talk. Is it the case that according to Swedish law, charges can be filed only after the accused presents themselves personally in a Swedish court? That seems strange. Anyone know the Swedish law as it applies here?
Perhaps the reasoning for dropping the charge was political and not legal, that they were hoping that a change of government in Ecuador would result in Assange being handed over to them and the results of last month’s election dashed that hope.