Could Wikileaks founder and wanted fugitive Julian Assange finally be on his way out of the Ecuadorian embassy after half a decade? Let’s just say it right up front… probably not. Or at least not yet. But for now, the man may have 99 problems, but the rape charges against him in Sweden ain’t one. The Swedes have dropped their investigation, meaning that they (specifically Sweden) won’t be waiting to arrest him if he leaves his hideout. (CNN)
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.
The Swedish rape charges may have been the original driving factor which sent him to the embassy, but other charges have stacked up in the meantime. The Brits still have a warrant to arrest him on charges of jumping bail. And, of course, the United States is ready with a list of charges and we have an extradition agreement with the Brits, so if he steps out the door he might well be quickly on his way here. Assange is probably being a bit overly dramatic when he says he could face the death penalty here, but considering the original sentence that Chelsea Manning (then Bradley) received from the incident which kicked all of this off it could be a rough road for him. Plus, the person who was more inclined to hand out pardons or commutations to those who endangered our national security is no longer in office. I somehow doubt he’d get such an offer from President Trump.
So what does this mean for the immediate future? Perhaps I’m overly skeptical, but I don’t see the situation changing much, if at all. Assange was always more worried about getting dragged to the United States than he was the sexual assault charges in Sweden. The Brits are saying that they will back off their surveillance of the Ecuadorian embassy to “a level of resourcing which is proportionate to [a much less serious] offence.” (Meaning the Failure to Appear charge rather than a sexual assault rap.) But that doesn’t mean that nobody is watching. And it would be shocking indeed if we don’t have some of our own people keeping tabs on the situation, particularly after this development. If Assange can make it out of the embassy (and the country) unnoticed he might be able to flee to a different country where we have no extradition agreement, assuming there’s anyone who would take him.
Perhaps he can go join Snowden in Russia? That sounds like a real party in the making. But just think what could happen if we manage to put the bag on this guy, haul him back to Quantico and have some agents seriously put the screws to him. Imagine what we might learn about any number of ongoing (or even closed) investigations if Assange decided to cut a deal. Sadly, at least for now, that all remains in the realm of speculation.