Julian Assange says 'war is far from over' after Sweden drops sexual assault investigation
WikiLeaks editor said the 'legal conflict' with US and UK continues but he is 'happy to engage with US Justice Department'
WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange has given a statement from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London after Sweden dropped its sexual assault investigation.
Mr Assange was questioned six months ago in the presence of Swedish officials over a sex allegation, which he has always denied.
The Swedish investigation was dropped on Friday but Mr Assange still faces extradition to the US for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks if he leaves the embassy.
Scotland Yard confirmed on Friday that Assange still faces arrest in the UK for failing to surrender to a court in London in 2012, when he lost his appeal against extradition to Sweden and sought refuge in the embassy.
A large number of supporters and journalists gathered outside the embassy in Hans Crescent to hear his reaction to the news that Swedish probed has been discountinued.
As Assange appeared he gave a clenched fist salute to his supporters before maintaining that a "legal conflict" with the US and the UK continues.
Mr Assange thanked Ecuador for supporting him and said he is happy to engage with the US Justice Department. He said that while "today was an important victory, an important vindication," the "war is far from over."
He also pledged that WikiLeaks will continue distributing material about the activities of the CIA in the United States, and will "accelerate" its publications.
He said: "Today is an important victory for me, and for the UN human rights system. But it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge – in prison, under house arrest, and almost five years here in this embassy without sunlight," he told press outside the embassy.
"Seven years without charge, while my children grew up without me. That is not something that I can forgive, it is not something that I can forget.
"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, and this situation, because the reality is, detention and extradition without charge has become a feature of the EU.
"A feature which has been exploited, yes, in my case, for political reasons, but for other cases have subjected many people to terrible injustices."
Happy to engage
"While US has made extremely threatening remarks, always happy to engage in dialogue over what has occurred.
"My staff, my legal staff, have contacted the UK authorities and we hope to engage in a dialogue about 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 extend 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."
Assange thanked “Ecuador, its people and its asylum system. They have stood by my asylum in the face of intense pressure.”
Assange also addressed the release of whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
"We have had an even more important victory this week [and] that is the release of Chelsea Manning after seven years in military prison."
Earlier on Friday Mr Assange tweeted: "Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget."
Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) May 19, 2017
The announcement that the Swedish probe was being dropped came ahead of a press conference by Sweden’s Director of Public Prosecution, Marianne Ny, into the long running saga.
A brief statement said: "Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange."
Scotland Yard said: "Westminster Magistrates' Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange following him failing to surrender to the court on June 29 2012. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy.
"Whilst Mr Assange was wanted on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) for an extremely serious offence, the MPS response reflected the serious nature of that crime. Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence. The MPS will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence.
"The priority for the MPS must continue to be arresting those who are currently wanted in the capital in connection with serious violent or sexual offences for the protection of Londoners."
The Metropolitan Police stopped its round the clock presence outside the Embassy in October 2015 amid controversy over the escalating cost of the exercise - believed to be over £12 million.
Friday's development follows a letter sent to the Swedish government by the government of Ecuador saying there had been a "serious failure" by the prosecutor, including a "lack of initiative" to complete inquiries.
The letter raised developments in the United States since the election of Donald Trump as president, including a speech by CIA director Mike Pompeo describing WikiLeaks as a "hostile intelligence service".
Recent public declarations such as this constitute an "obvious risk" for Mr Assange, said the letter.
Mr Assange originally faced three sex allegations, all of which he denied.
Mr Assange was on bail when he arrived at the Ecuador embassy in Central London almost five years ago.
WikiLeaks tweeted: "UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to UK."
Mr Assange was interviewed inside the embassy last November in the presence of Sweden's Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren.
He later released his full testimony to Swedish prosecutors, maintaining he was "entirely innocent" of the sex allegation.
A statement said that Mr Assange went to Sweden in August 2010 and met a woman, continuing: "On the evening of 16 August 2010 she invited me to her home.
"During the night and in the morning we had consensual sexual intercourse on several occasions.
"I therefore could not believe my eyes when five days later I saw a headline in a Swedish tabloid that I was suspected of a crime and arrested in my absence.
"I immediately made myself available to the Swedish authorities to clarify any questions that might exist, although I had no obligation to do so.
"That same day (August 21 2010), the Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm, Eva Finne, dropped the arrest warrant against me and within days would close the preliminary investigation with the finding that no crime whatsoever had been committed against the woman 'SW' (who is the subject of this procedure).
Background to Sweden dropping its case against Julian Assange https://t.co/3W8ZFa9UCH— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 19, 2017
"I drew the conclusion that, other than the worldwide damage to my reputation caused by millions of web pages saying that I was 'wanted for rape', my life, in this respect, would return to normal."
Explaining why he released his testimony, Mr Assange said last December: "Six years ago today I was handcuffed and locked into Wandsworth prison by order of a Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny.
"I had not and still have not been charged with an offence. The claimed grounds for my arrest and extradition without charge were so that Ny could question me.
"But it was not until six years later - three weeks ago - that I was questioned for the first time. I have decided to release my responses.
"I am entirely innocent. I was already cleared of exactly this allegation in 2010 by the Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm, Eva Finne, who closed the case.
"During the height of the Pentagon's conflict with me the following month, the allegation was resurrected by the current prosecutor, Marianne Ny. It was immediately seized on to extinguish my freedom of movement and harm my reputation.
"Without even bothering to take my statement, the Swedish Prosecution Authority broke its own rules and released my name to a tabloid newspaper.
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"Prosecutor Ny went on to produce more than 40 press releases and press conferences about me. As a result, to this day more than half a million webpages falsely conflate my name with the word 'rape'.
"For six years I called for my statement to be taken so that the 'preliminary investigation' might again be swiftly closed.
"Finally, last month Marianne Ny sent a deputy and a policewoman to London to question me over two days, but - true to form - my Swedish lawyer was excluded from the room in yet another breach of my basic rights.
"I am now releasing my statement to the public. The reason is simple. I want people to know the truth about how abusive this process has been.
"Furthermore, in the past the prosecution has fed partial information to tabloids that politically oppose me.
"It is better that my statement, which I am happy with, and which makes it obvious to all that I am innocent, sees the light in full."
A United Nations panel has confirmed its view that the WikiLeaks founder is a victim of arbitrary detention.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention rejected a request by the UK Government to review the case.
The panel found that Britain and Sweden had "arbitrarily detained" Mr Assange.
The panel said he should be freed and entitled to compensation.
Meanwhile Chelsea Manning, who provided WikiLeaks with classified intelligence on Iraq and Afghanistan, was freed from prison on Wednesday.
The transgender former US intelligence analyst left Fort Leavenworth, months after Barack Obama commuted her 35-year sentence as one of his final acts as President.
The former military intelligence analyst gave classified information to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks in 2010. He was acquitted of aiding the enemy, the gravest charge laid against him by the US government. He was, however, found guilty of 19 other charges including espionage, theft and computer fraud.
Following the verdict, Mr Assange accused Obama of "national security extremism," referring to Manning "the most important journalistic source the world has ever seen".
"The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to break him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial," Assange said from inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
"It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short-sighted judgment that cannot be tolerated and it must be reversed."
“It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that Manning's trial was about sending a message: the US government will come after you,” Amnesty International noted.
Making a statement alongside his guilty pleas in 2013, Manning said he wanted to reveal the “bloodlust” of the US military and so-called disregard for human life.
He transmitted his first batch of papers to WikiLeaks, founded by Assange, on 3 February 2001 with an attached note. “This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war, and revealing the true nature of the 21st century asymmetric warfare. Have a good day.”
Thereafter he handed over more than 700,000 documents, including battlefield notes from Iraq and Afghanistan and a video of a US helicopter attack in Baghdad. Last month marked the fifth anniversary of the release of the 'Collateral Murder' video which showed a July 12, 2007 US Apache attack helicopter attack upon individuals in a Baghdad suburb.
The attack killed twelve people including a Reuters photographer and his driver.
On August 21, 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. On the day after her sentencing, Manning announced via a statement on the morning talk show Today that she is transgender and wanted to be known as Chelsea.
The whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, called Manning a 'hero'.
key dates in the case:
An arrest warrant is issued for Mr Assange for two separate allegations - one of rape and one of molestation - after he visits Sweden. He is questioned by police in Stockholm and denies the allegations.
Stockholm District Court approves a request to detain the WikiLeaks founder for questioning on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. An international arrest warrant is issued by Swedish police through Interpol.
Mr Assange presents himself to London police and appears at an extradition hearing where he is remanded in custody. At a later hearing he is granted conditional bail but is kept behind bars after Swedish authorities challenge the decision.
He is later granted conditional bail at the High Court in London after his supporters pay £240,000 in cash and sureties.
District Judge Howard Riddle rules Mr Assange should be extradited to Sweden and denies this would breach his human rights. Mr Assange vows to fight the decision.
Mr Assange loses a High Court appeal against the decision to extradite him.
The UK Supreme Court upholds the High Court decision in the case, ruling that extradition is lawful and can go ahead. The Supreme Court later rejects a move by Mr Assange to reopen his appeal against his extradition, saying it is "without merit".
Mr Assange enters the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, requesting political asylum. A day later, Scotland Yard confirms he will be subject to arrest for breaching his bail conditions.
Mr Assange is granted political asylum by Ecuador.
Mr Assange makes his first public appearance in two months on the Ecuadorian Embassy's balcony and calls for the US government to "renounce its witch-hunt" against WikiLeaks.
Ecuador's ambassador to the UK, Ana Alban, says Mr Assange is suffering a chronic lung condition after spending months inside a one-room office at the embassy. The Ecuadorian government later plays down the health fears and says Mr Assange "does not have an urgent medical condition".
Mr Assange marks the six-month anniversary inside the embassy by making another appearance on the balcony to say the "door is open" for talks to break the deadlock over his campaign to avoid extradition to Sweden.
Mr Assange tells a group of journalists he will not leave the embassy even if sex allegations against him are dropped, because he fears moves are already under way to extradite him to the United States.
Mr Assange loses a legal bid to have an arrest warrant issued in Sweden against him cancelled. A judge in Stockholm decided to uphold the warrant against him for alleged sexual offences against two women.
Mr Assange tells a press conference he will be leaving the embassy soon following speculation that he is seeking hospital treatment for heart and lung problems. He later brushes off reports that he is about to give up his fight against extradition to Sweden.
On behalf of Mr Assange, his legal team submitted a complaint against Sweden and the United Kingdom to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention claiming his confinement in the embassy amounts to illegal detention.
Mr Assange loses a legal move in a Swedish appeal court aimed at revoking his arrest warrant.
Mr Assange appears on the embassy's balcony to greet Noam Chomsky, the US philosopher and activist. Hollywood actor John Cusack also visits the WikiLeaks founder later in the month.
Swedish prosecutors ask to question Mr Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Mr Assange claims the Swedish prosecutor has cancelled an appointment to interview him at the embassy.
Swedish prosecutors drop investigations into some of the sex allegations against Mr Assange due to time restrictions. The investigation into suspected rape remains active.
Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said Ecuador's decision to harbour Mr Assange in its embassy had prevented the proper course of justice. He said the UK continued to have a legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden, where he remained suspected of a sexual offence.
Civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson visits Mr Assange inside the embassy. Afterwards, he says: "Eight hundred years after the Magna Carta, freedom of the press is right and detention without charges is wrong."
Metropolitan Police end their 24-hour guard outside the Ecuadorian Embassy. It breaks a three-year police operation which is estimated to have cost more than £12 million.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention says Mr Assange is being "arbitrarily detained" in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and calls on authorities to end his "deprivation of liberty".
The report is branded "frankly ridiculous" by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond - a response which Mr Assange described as "insulting".
Swedish prosecutors say they are working on a renewed request to interview Mr Assange at the embassy.
Lawyers for Mr Assange submit papers to a Swedish court, asking for his arrest warrant to be overturned.
The Government formally asks a UN Working Group to review its finding that Mr Assange was subject to arbitrary detention, saying the opinion was "deeply flawed".
A Swedish court refuses to drop an arrest warrant against Mr Assange.
Ecuador reveals it has received a formal request from the Swedish authorities to interview Mr Assange.
Mr Assange has implies that the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich could be linked to the recent DNC emails leak. Wikileaks offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for the murder.
Mr Assange files an appeal at Sweden's Court of Appeal of Svea, arguing the country must comply with the UN working group's findings that his deprivation of liberty was unlawful.
Ecuador announces that Mr Assange will be questioned by Swedish prosecutors in the embassy in London.
Sweden's Court of Appeal rejects a bid by Mr Assange to have his sex assault warrant dropped, saying no new information has emerged.
Julian Assange gives interview to John Pilger
Mr Assange is questioned over the sex allegation at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the presence of Sweden's assistant prosecutor Ingrid Isgren and police inspector Cecilia Redell. The interview spans two days.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention rejects a request by the UK Government to review the case of Mr Assange.
Barack Obama's decision to free whistleblower Chelsea Manning prompts speculation that Mr Assange will end his self-imposed exile.
WikiLeaks tweeted prior to the decision: "If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ (Department of Justice) case."
Mr Assange tells a press conference that he stands by his offer to go to the US, provided his rights are respected.
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage is spotted leaving the embassy where Mr Assange is being held.
US attorney general Jeff Sessions says Mr Assange's arrest is a "priority" for the United States.
Swedish investigation dropped. Assange appears on balcony of Ecuadorian embassy to give statement