Swedish prosecutors have dropped a nine-year-old rape investigation into Julian Assange, saying that “the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”
“I would like to emphasize that the injured party has submitted a credible and reliable version of events,” Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Eva-Marie Persson said, according to a BBC report today.
“Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed; however, my overall assessment is that the evidential situation has been weakened to such an extent that there is no longer any reason to continue the investigation.”
Prosecutors said they interviewed seven witnesses before deciding to stop the investigation, according to the BBC.
“Memories fade for natural reasons,” Persson also said, according to The New York Times.
The large amount of media coverage of the case over the past nine years apparently also affected the decision. “You have to consider how much the witnesses will have read and heard from the media,” Persson said.
Assange in prison, faces other charges
Two women made sexual-assault accusations against Assange, including a rape allegation, in August 2010. He was granted asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, allowing him to avoid extradition.
In April 2019, British police arrested Assange after the Ecuadorian government invited the Metropolitan Police Service into the embassy to remove him. A British court later sentenced Assange to 50 weeks in prison for fleeing to the Ecuadorian embassy in London while on bail in 2012.
Assange also faces an indictment in the US that charges him with conspiring with Chelsea Manning to crack a hashed password belonging to a Pentagon computer in 2010. If convicted, he could spend up to five years in a US prison.
The statute of limitations on sexual-assault allegations against Assange expired in 2015, but the rape charge’s statute of limitations doesn’t expire until August 2020.
Sweden dropped the rape investigation once before, in 2017, but didn’t rule out the possibility of reopening the case. Swedish prosecutors reopened the rape investigation in May 2019 and conducted interviews over the past few months before announcing today that there isn’t enough evidence to pursue it further.
WikiLeaks, the document-publishing group that Assange founded, issued a statement after the Swedish prosecutor’s announcement today.
“Let us now focus on the threat Mr. Assange has been warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment,” WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said, according to the BBC.