The ongoing saga of the Wikileaker founder Julian Assange continues, with the news that sexual assault claims against him have been dropped by the Swedish prosecutor.
Assange has since June 2012 remained holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and the British government said today it would make a formal protest to Ecuador over its sheltering of Assange, thereby preventing his extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes.
“Ecuador must recognise that its decision to harbour Mr Assange more than three years ago has prevented the proper course of justice,” British Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire was reported as saying in a statement.
“It is completely unacceptable that the British taxpayer has had to foot the bill for this abuse of diplomatic relations,” said Swire, adding Britain still had a legal obligation to extradite Assange while the rape allegation remained outstanding.
“I have instructed our ambassador in Quito to reiterate to Ecuador that the continuing failure to expedite the Swedish Prosecutor’s interview and to bring this situation to an end, is being seen as a growing stain on the country’s reputation.”
The British protest comes as the Swedish prosecutors this week dropped inquiries into three allegations of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion against the 44-year-old Australian. They cited the fact that they had run out of time to bring charges. Under Swedish law, charges cannot be laid without interviewing the suspect first.
But the more serious allegation of rape made against him in 2010 remains, and the Swedish said they would continue with that investigation.
Assange denies any wrongdoing and has told the BBC that he was “extremely disappointed” and said the Swedish prosecutor had avoided hearing his side of the story.
“There was no need for any of this. I am an innocent man. I haven’t even been charged,” Assange was quoted as saying.
But Sweden’s director of public prosecution Marianne Nye said a request to interview Assange inside the embassy had been submitted but permission was yet to be granted.
She reportedly said she hoped to arrange an interview as there were “ongoing negotiations” between Sweden and Ecuador.
Julian Assange is the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, the website which gained notoriety when it published US military and diplomatic documents which were leaked by intelligence analyst Bradley Manning (now Chelsea Manning).
Since then, Assange has been under investigation by the US, but is also facing prosecution in Sweden for alleged sexual offences against two Wikileaks volunteers.
Assange claims the accusations are politically motivated.
He has refused to hand himself over to Swedish authorities, fearing he would then be sent to the US and put on trial for releasing secret American documents.
In August last year, Julian Assange said he planned to leave the embassy “soon,” speaking at a press conference hosted by the country’s Foreign Minister Ricarod Patino. He gave no date, however, and denied he plans to surrender to the authorities.
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