STOCKHOLM — Sweden is dropping its investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on rape allegations, according to a prosecution statement released Friday.
Assange has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, seeking to avoid an arrest warrant on the allegations in Sweden. He has always denied wrongdoing.
Assange, an Australian national, has previously said that he’s afraid that if he leaves the embassy, he could end up being extradited and facing the death penalty in the United States over allegations of revealing government secrets through his site, WikiLeaks.
Following the statement, Assange tweeted an old image of himself smiling, but has not yet made any other comment.
UK arrest warrant
US authorities have prepared charges to seek his arrest, US officials familiar with the matter told CNN last month.
The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates to at least 2010, when the site first gained wide attention for posting thousands of files stolen by the former US Army intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning.
Assange is still subject to an arrest warrant in the UK after he failed to surrender to Westminster Magistrates’ Court in June 2012, London’s Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement on Friday.
However, it noted that now the Swedish authorities had dropped their investigation, Assange was “wanted for a much less serious offence” than before and said the force would “provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence.”
It added: “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.”