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Julian Assange rape inquiry dropped but arrest in UK still possible - live Julian Assange addresses media from Ecuadorian embassy in London - live
(about 1 hour later)
5.13pm BST
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Press Association have published their first take on the Assange appearance:
Julian Assange has signalled he will remain inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London despite the Swedish authorities suddenly dropping a seven year investigation against him.
The WikiLeaks founder made a rare appearance on the balcony of the central London building to hail the decision by Sweden’s director of public prosecutions as an “important victory.”
He gave a clenched fist salute to his supporters, and scores of journalists and TV crews, before maintaining that a “legal conflict” with the United States and the UK continues.
The Australian, who has lived inside the embassy for almost five years, said the “road is far from over”, adding it was “extremely regretful” that he was still being threatened with arrest if he leaves the embassy.
Assange said he had spent seven years either under house arrest or living inside the embassy, without charge, as he faced sex-related allegations in Sweden, which he has always denied.
He had missed seeing his children growing up. “That is not something I can forgive, or forget,” he said, maintaining that he had been the victim of a “terrible injustice”.
Detention and extradition without charge had become a feature of the EU, but it was not something expected from the rule of law in the UK, he said.
Assange thanked the government of Ecuador for granting him political asylum despite “intense pressure”, as well as his legal team and others who had stood by him.
“We have today won an important victory, but the road is far from over. The proper war is just commencing.”
He pledged that WikiLeaks will continue distributing material about the activities of the CIA in the United States, and will “accelerate” its publications.
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'The proper war is just commencing'
Assange said his legal battle is not over, despite the decision by Swedish prosecutors to drop their investigation into him. Using defiant language, the WikiLeaks founder said: “The road is far from over … the proper war is just commencing”.
A “legal conflict” with the United States and the UK continues, he added.
On what happens next, Assange signalled that he will remain inside the embassy for the time being, and that he is seeking dialogue with British and American officials:
My legal staff have contacted the UK authorities, and we hope to engage in a dialogue on what is the best way forward. To some extent the UK has been exploited by the process it entered into with the EU, where it agreed to extradite people without charge.
That is to an extent a forced position the UK has been put into. And, the first part of that is over. The UK refuses to confirm or deny at this stage whether a US extradition warrant is in the UK territory.
While there have been extremely threatening remarks made [in the US] I’m always happy to engage in a dialogue with the Department of Justice about what has occurred.
Assange has long said that he think the US wants him extradited and arrested in connection with WikiLeaks’ publication of classified US documents. He contends that the US should recognise his First Amendment rights as a journalist.
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Assange addresses the release of Chelsea Manning from prison in the US:
We have had an even more important victory this week [and] that is the release of Chelsea Manning after seven years in military prison.
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Assange thanks Ecuador, in whose embassy he has been holed up:
I would like to thank Ecuador, its people and its asylum system. They have stood by my asylum in the face of intense pressure.
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“Today is an important victory for me,” Assange says, adding that his seven-year legal ordeal, which he calls unjust detention, “is not something that I can forgive.”
It was “extremely regretful” that he was still being threatened with arrest if he leaves the embassy, he added, going on to say:
The inevitable inquiry into what has occurred in this moment of terrible injustice is something that I hope will be more than just about me … because the reality is that detention and extradition without charge has become a feature of the EU.
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Assange speaks from balcony of Ecuadorian embassy
Julian Assange is addressing the media and his supporters from the embassy in central London.
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Haroon SiddiqueHaroon Siddique
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.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.
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Esther AddleyEsther Addley
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.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.”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”.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”.
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While we wait for Assange to appear, here’s a summary of how things stand:While we wait for Assange to appear, here’s a summary of how things stand:
Swedish prosecutors have dropped their preliminary investigation into an allegation of rape against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, bringing an end to a seven-year legal standoff. The decision was taken after prosecutors concluded that “at this point, all possibilities to conduct the investigation are exhausted”, said Sweden’s director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny.Swedish prosecutors have dropped their preliminary investigation into an allegation of rape against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, bringing an end to a seven-year legal standoff. The decision was taken after prosecutors concluded that “at this point, all possibilities to conduct the investigation are exhausted”, said Sweden’s director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny.
Ny warned that the case could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations ends in 2020.Ny warned that the case could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations ends in 2020.
While Assange no longer faces sex crime allegations in Sweden, the Metropolitan Police have said there is still a warrant for Assange’s arrest on the less serious offence of failing to surrender to the court in June 2012. It would be “obliged to execute the warrant” if Assange leaves the Ecuadorian embassy, it said.While Assange no longer faces sex crime allegations in Sweden, the Metropolitan Police have said there is still a warrant for Assange’s arrest on the less serious offence of failing to surrender to the court in June 2012. It would be “obliged to execute the warrant” if Assange leaves the Ecuadorian embassy, it said.
A European arrest warrant against Assange has been dropped. Theresa May said added any decision about UK action in relation to Assange were he to leave embassy is “operational matter for the police.”A European arrest warrant against Assange has been dropped. Theresa May said added any decision about UK action in relation to Assange were he to leave embassy is “operational matter for the police.”
It is not known whether US authorities are seeking Assange’s arrest for his role at the head of WikiLeaks, which has published tens of thousands of leaked classified US documents. There may be a sealed indictment. Last month US attorney general Jeff Sessions said arresting Assange was a priority.It is not known whether US authorities are seeking Assange’s arrest for his role at the head of WikiLeaks, which has published tens of thousands of leaked classified US documents. There may be a sealed indictment. Last month US attorney general Jeff Sessions said arresting Assange was a priority.
Ecuador’s foreign minister Guillaume Long said his country will now try to secure safe passage for Assange. “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,” he told the Guardian.Ecuador’s foreign minister Guillaume Long said his country will now try to secure safe passage for Assange. “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,” he told the Guardian.
WikiLeaks said it feared Assange still faces extradition to the US. After the Swedish announcement it tweeted: “UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to UK.”WikiLeaks said it feared Assange still faces extradition to the US. After the Swedish announcement it tweeted: “UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to UK.”
Per E Samuelsson, Assange’s lawyer in Sweden, claims the decision is vindication for this client. He said: “This is a total victory for Julian Assange. He is now free to leave the embassy when he wants. We have won the Assange case.Per E Samuelsson, Assange’s lawyer in Sweden, claims the decision is vindication for this client. He said: “This is a total victory for Julian Assange. He is now free to leave the embassy when he wants. We have won the Assange case.
A lawyer for Assange’s accuser called the prosecutor’s decision a “scandal”. Elisabeth Fritz said: “It is a scandal that a suspected rapist can escape justice and thereby avoid the courts.”A lawyer for Assange’s accuser called the prosecutor’s decision a “scandal”. Elisabeth Fritz said: “It is a scandal that a suspected rapist can escape justice and thereby avoid the courts.”
Assange has warned he does not “forgive or forget”. Earlier he tweeted a picture of himself smiling.Assange has warned he does not “forgive or forget”. Earlier he tweeted a picture of himself smiling.
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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.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.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.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.”“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.”
Leigh added:Leigh added:
My guess is we are not going to see Julian stick his head out of the door today. If he had faced music in Sweden and had been convicted, then any punishment he would have got would have been less than being locked up for seven years in a little room in the Ecuadorian embassy.My guess is we are not going to see Julian stick his head out of the door today. If he had faced music in Sweden and had been convicted, then any punishment he would have got would have been less than being locked up for seven years in a little room in the Ecuadorian embassy.
We wrote a book about Julian Assange and we researched and investigated in great detail these sexual allegations. We discovered there was a good deal of evidence to support them. There was no evidence whatever that the women were part of some kind of CIA honeytrap.We wrote a book about Julian Assange and we researched and investigated in great detail these sexual allegations. We discovered there was a good deal of evidence to support them. There was no evidence whatever that the women were part of some kind of CIA honeytrap.
Assange has bounced around like pinball. The one thing he has succeeded in doing is getting attention for himself and the story probably has got a bit further to run.Assange has bounced around like pinball. The one thing he has succeeded in doing is getting attention for himself and the story probably has got a bit further to run.
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There may be no sign yet of Assange at the windows of the Ecuadorian embassy, but he does appear to be following this blog.There may be no sign yet of Assange at the windows of the Ecuadorian embassy, but he does appear to be following this blog.
https://t.co/0VmWWBCxfC pic.twitter.com/ubFLuVc0Gshttps://t.co/0VmWWBCxfC pic.twitter.com/ubFLuVc0Gs
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Amelia GentlemanAmelia Gentleman
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.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.“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 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.”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.”
Borgström added:Borgström added:
That would have been the thing that should have happened, but he avoided that by going to the Ecuadorian embassy.That would have been the thing that should have happened, but he avoided that by going to the Ecuadorian embassy.
From both women’s point of view, it would have been reasonable that he had to answer to what they say he has done to them. The Swedish courts have found it most probably that he has committed crimes against them, he was arrested on probable cause.From both women’s point of view, it would have been reasonable that he had to answer to what they say he has done to them. The Swedish courts have found it most probably that he has committed crimes against them, he was arrested on probable cause.
The courts in Sweden, the district court, the court of appeal and the supreme court, have found it probable that he has committed what the prosecutors claimed. The whole case is left with that knowledge.The courts in Sweden, the district court, the court of appeal and the supreme court, have found it probable that he has committed what the prosecutors claimed. The whole case is left with that knowledge.
He [Assange] decided to avoid the arms of justice. He didn’t want to come to court. He didn’t want to answer the allegations, so he decided to escape.He [Assange] decided to avoid the arms of justice. He didn’t want to come to court. He didn’t want to answer the allegations, so he decided to escape.
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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.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 saidSpeaking 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
He has committed a criminal offence, so the Metropolitan police do have the power to arrest him for that, because there is a ordinary English criminal lay warrant outstanding for him. Whether they will do that, given the underlying predicate namely the Swedish rape allegation has fallen away remains to be seen. They [Scotland Yard] have made a statement saying they will deal with it proportionately, so I think they are hedging their bets at the moment.He has committed a criminal offence, so the Metropolitan police do have the power to arrest him for that, because there is a ordinary English criminal lay warrant outstanding for him. Whether they will do that, given the underlying predicate namely the Swedish rape allegation has fallen away remains to be seen. They [Scotland Yard] have made a statement saying they will deal with it proportionately, so I think they are hedging their bets at the moment.
Warrants can always be withdrawn not every criminal offence gets prosecuted. So I would imagine there will be discussions going on between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service as to what to do about that domestic offence.Warrants can always be withdrawn not every criminal offence gets prosecuted. So I would imagine there will be discussions going on between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service as to what to do about that domestic offence.
Asked about the US attempts to extradite Assange, Knowles said:Asked about the US attempts to extradite Assange, Knowles said:
That is an unknown quantity. I couldn’t understand if the Americans wanted him why they didn’t take action some years ago. There was no logic in them waiting for the Swedish proceedings to take precedence because it just made things more complicated. On that basis I would wonder whether the US really do want him. But if they do they would have to move swiftly because if he is not proceeded against as a bail act offence, he’ll be a free man when he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy and he will be able to go anywhere in the world where he is lawfully able to go.That is an unknown quantity. I couldn’t understand if the Americans wanted him why they didn’t take action some years ago. There was no logic in them waiting for the Swedish proceedings to take precedence because it just made things more complicated. On that basis I would wonder whether the US really do want him. But if they do they would have to move swiftly because if he is not proceeded against as a bail act offence, he’ll be a free man when he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy and he will be able to go anywhere in the world where he is lawfully able to go.
If the United States are interested in getting him they will have to first of all obtain a provisional warrant from the court here and that will then provide a basis of arrest. But whether they are going to do that, or have done that, is an unknown quantity at the moment.If the United States are interested in getting him they will have to first of all obtain a provisional warrant from the court here and that will then provide a basis of arrest. But whether they are going to do that, or have done that, is an unknown quantity at the moment.
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Assange has fired off a new tweet saying he does not “forget or forgive”.
Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.
Meanwhile, journalists are still waiting for him to speak at the embassy.
Wherefore art thou @JulianAssange? Here at the embassy waiting for your balcony scene...#julianassange pic.twitter.com/FJz9o3MtmU
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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:
The woman in question and Julian Assange have let down by a failure to prosecute. They have missed the opportunity to find out what actually happened.
It is a massive distraction from the real issue, which is the important debate we are having about the role of whistleblowers and secrecy in our society. I would like to see it resolved. I think he should be let out.
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Esther Addley
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.”
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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:
This is a victory for the rule of law. The warrant was contestable. There were dissents in both the UK and Swedish supreme courts. Also the majority in the UK supreme court was concerned by several aspects of the extradition request.
The Swedish supreme court laid down strict requirements and warned the prosecutors to speed up or drop the case. The UN working group on arbitrary detention found (4-1) violations of international law.
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Assange's accuser brands decision a 'scandal'
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.
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Theresa May says action against Assange is a matter for the police
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.”
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Haroon Siddique
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.
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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.”
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The Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed to the Guardian that the European arrest warrant against Assange has been dropped after Sweden’s request.
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Ecuador seeking safe passage for Assange
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:
Ecuador welcomes the decision to drop the charges against Julian Assange. This decision follows the interview of Julian Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London in November 2016.
Ecuador regrets that the Swedish prosecutor delayed more than four years in carrying out this interview.
This unnecessary delay was despite the repeated insistence from the Ecuadorian government, since Ecuador granting asylum in 2012, that this interview was not only possible but that Ecuador would facilitate it in its embassy.
Ecuador was clear from the outset that it would fully co-operate with the Swedish justice system. As was once again communicated to the Swedish state as recently as May 8, Ecuador has regularly criticised as wholly unacceptable the conduct of the Swedish prosecutor which has led to unnecessary delays in progressing this case.
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