Julian Assange investigation dropped by Swedish prosecutor
Sweden's Director of Public Prosecution has decided to discontinue the investigation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The dramatic announcement came ahead of a press conference by the DPP, Marianne Ny, into the long running saga.
Mr Assange has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost five years and has been granted political asylum.
He was questioned six months ago in the presence of Swedish officials over a sex allegation, which he has always denied.
Mr Assange faces extradition to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks if he leaves the embassy.
Scotland Yard said it remains obliged to execute a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates' Court for the arrest of Julian Assange following his failure to surrender to the court in June 2012 should he leave the embassy.
A brief statement ahead of today's press conference said: "Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange."
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.
The focus will now move to the governments of the UK and the United States.
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 (referred to as AW), 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 (21 August 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).
"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.
"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.