Swedish prosecutor drops case against Julian Assange

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange says he will not "forgive or forget," despite a Swedish prosecutor dropping the case into rape accusations against him. His attorney hailed the move as a "victory," but said there is still a threat the US will apply to extradite him from the UK.

The decision was made by Sweden’s director of public prosecution, who confirmed that she decided to discontinue the investigation against the WikiLeaks co-founder.

"Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Ny said the prosecution is not making "any statement of guilty or not" in regards to Assange. 

Assange’s defense lawyer, Per Samuelson, told AP that the fact that the prosecution won't admit Assange is innocent is simply a matter of them "trying to save their faces."

"The truth is, once they heard Julian Assange during the interview in November last year, they were convinced...he gave a very good explanation to what happened between him and the woman, and that explanation fitted as a glove to all the circumstances in the case. So they could no longer see towards a conviction. If they had indicted him, he would have been acquitted."

Samuelson has called the prosecution’s decision a “total victory.”

He told Ruptly that he believes the situation "will go over very quickly, I think it's just a matter of time, negotiations between the two countries, United Kingdom and Ecuador, then they will led him go from the embassy to Ecuador."

However, he also told Ruptly that "the threat from the USA is for real. There is a risk that the United States will apply to the United Kingdom, to get him extradited..."

The attorney said he called Assange earlier on Friday.

"I asked him, 'does it feel better today?' and he said 'yes Per, it feels much better today,'" Samuelson said. 

READ MORE: Assange case dropped by Swedish prosecutor Live updates

Assange later stated on Twitter that he "does not forgive or forget," noting that his name had been slandered.

Meanwhile, Ny said the investigation could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in 2020.

Assange has lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, in order to avoid extradition to Sweden over the allegation, which he denies.

Another of Assange's lawyers, Juan Braco, told AP that he wants French President Emmanuel Macron to intervene to support the WikiLeaks founder and help him leave the Ecuadorian embassy.

“We need a political intervention to make this situation end. He is the only political prisoner in Western Europe," he said.

The Friday decision comes after Assange’s Swedish lawyer filed a motion which demanded that the arrest warrant be lifted, after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April that arresting the WikiLeaks co-founder would be a “priority.”

US authorities have been investigating Assange and WikiLeaks since at least 2010, when the site posted thousands of cables stolen by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The publication of classified US military and diplomatic documents represents one of the biggest information leaks in American history.

Just days ago, Ecuador voiced concern over the “serious lack of progress” by Sweden in dealing with Assange, citing a “serious failure” by the prosecution to complete the inquiry into the alleged sexual assault.

One of Assange’s lawyers said earlier on Friday that closing the investigation or lifting the European arrest warrant would not necessarily mean he could easily leave for Ecuador, which has granted him asylum.

“The first thing one likely needs to do is seek guarantees from the British authorities that he won’t be seized in some other way,” Melinda Taylor told TT news agency.

Meanwhile, London’s Metropolitan Police have announced that Assange will still be arrested if he leaves the embassy.

“Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence,” it wrote in a statement.

Assange is wanted by Britain for skipping bail when he fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012.

Samuelson told AP that Assange is not surprised that the UK is still pursuing him, noting that “it’s been in the pipeline for quite a while.”

He noted, however, that he believes this question is a “minor one which will be solved in the near future.”

READ MORE: Assange timeline: Life under siege in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy

A UN panel stated in February 2016 that Assange had been arbitrarily detained, and that the UK and Sweden should take immediate steps to ensure his freedom of movement. 

Assange declared the ruling a "victory that cannot be denied," while both Britain and Sweden disagreed that he was being denied freedom, as he had entered the Ecuadorian embassy voluntarily.

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3 killed & many injured after truck drives into pedestrians, crashes into Stockholm dept store

Three people have been killed and many injured after a truck drove into pedestrians on a Stockholm street before crashing into a department store, police have confirmed. Authorities say they are treating the incident as a possible terrorist attack.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven says that all details indicate the incident was a “terrorist attack.” 

The suspect has been detained, Lofven told a news conference. However, Swedish police have said that no one has been arrested in connection with the attack, according to Reuters.

A witness by the name of Dimitris told Aftonbladet that he saw at least two people run over by the vehicle.

A separate witness told RT that he "saw at least three bodies that were covered with blankets and probably already dead." He added that he could see smoke and fire, calling the incident a "really awful situation." 

He went on to state that he was about to leave for lunch at the time of the attack, noting that "if I had been 15 seconds earlier I probably would have been dead right now..."

Swedish police have issued a warning to avoid Stockholm’s city center. All Stockholm subway services have been shut down, according to TT news agency.

The city's central train station has also been evacuated.

All Swedish government offices have been closed following the attack, and all ministers are safe, a source told Reuters.

Facebook has activated its safety check for people in the Stockholm area.

Footage posted on Twitter shows panicked pedestrians fleeing the scene.

“I saw hundreds of people run, they ran for their lives,” a witness by the name of Anna told the newspaper, adding that she also fled the scene.

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A worker at Åhlens department store said the truck drove into the store’s perfume department. He said an alarm went off inside the store and everyone was asked to leave the building, SVT reported.

A photo posted online shows the truck after it crashed into the department store, with the caption stating that the vehicle came from a direction in which trucks are not allowed.

Radio Sweden is also reporting that the truck caught fire after crashing into the department store. 

Helicopters are circling above the area, a witness told SVT.

@AmichaiStein1: Swedish police say a truck has driven into crowds injuring people on a main shopping street in central

The area has been cordoned off by police. Authorities were alerted at 2:53pm local time, according to SVT.

@franki_kuka : Crazy stuff in , people, https://www.pscp.tv

An employee at the nearby Stockholm Inn hotel told RT that hotel employees and guests are being “informed to stay in here because it's not over yet.” She added that she has not heard any shots fired.

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Swedish brewery Spendrups has reportedly said that one of its trucks was hijacked earlier on Friday.

The scene is near the site of a December 2010 attack which saw a man rig a car with explosives, in an effort to drive people to Drottninggatan - where the Friday incident took place. From there, he planned to set off devices strapped to his chest and back. The car bomb never went off, and the attacker died when one of his devices detonated. Two others were injured. 

The Friday incident comes less than three weeks after an attacker plowed a truck into pedestrians in London, killing four people. One police officer was also fatally stabbed by the attacker.

An attacker also smashed a truck through a Christmas market in Berlin in December, killing 12 people.

Last July, an attacker in Nice, France, plowed a truck into pedestrians during a Bastille Day celebration, killing 86 people.

  • Published in World

Wikileaks: Assange's Embassy Questioning First Step to Freedom

Assange welcomed the interrogation, saying he was looking forward to the “chance to clear his name.” 

Swedish chief prosecutor Ingrid Isgren arrived at Ecuador's embassy in London Monday where she and another Swedish official will witness questioning of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, set to be interviewed later in the day by Ecuadorean prosecutor Wilson Toainga.

RELATED: 5 Reasons Why Ecuador Granted Asylum to Julian Assange

The interview was announced last week by the Swedish prosecution office and could end a long diplomatic deadlock that has seen the WikiLeaks founder holed up in the London residence since 2012.

Swedish authorities want to question Assange over allegations that he committed rape in 2010. Assange denies the allegations. “A DNA sample will also be taken, provided that Julian Assange agrees to it,” the prosecutor’s office said.

Last week Assange welcomed the news through his lawyer, saying he was looking forward to the “chance to clear his name.”

On Monday, supporters outside the Ecuador's London embassy held signs with message such as "Free Assange" and "U.S.A., hands off Assange." The WikiLeaks founder fears extradition to the United States, where he could face charges such as espionage for releases thousands of secret documents to the public. 

After the interview, the Swedish officials will deliver a report on the interview to the Swedish prosecutor who will then evaluate whether the investigation should continue or not.

If Sweden eventually drops the investigation and Assange leaves the embassy he could then be arrested by British authorities for breaching his initial bail conditions.

The whistleblower jumped bailed and took refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in 2012 days before he was to be extradited to Sweden because he feared that he would then be handed over to U.S. authorities.

RELATED:​ Higher Hopes for Assange Pardon Under Trump Presidency?

In February, a U.N. panel said his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy equaled arbitrary detention, that he should be allowed to leave and be awarded compensation.

The Australian national claims he refused to travel to Sweden for questioning because he feared extradition to the U.S. over WikiLeaks’ release of 500,000 secret military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Swedish prosecutors dropped a sexual assault investigation, concerning another woman, against Assange in 2015 after the five-year statute of limitations expired.

But they still want to question him about the 2010 rape allegation, which carries a 10-year statute of limitations. Assange insists the sexual encounters in question were consensual.

Last month, the Swedish prosecutor’s office rejected Assange’s request to temporarily suspend his arrest warrant so he could leave the Ecuadorean embassy to attend the funeral of his mentor, Gavin MacFayden.

Making sure Assange did not escape from the Ecuadorian embassy has been an operation that has cost the U.K. police over US$18 million.

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Assange set to meet Swedish prosecutor for interview in Ecuador’s London embassy

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is set to finally meet with Swedish prosecutors for an interview at the Ecuadorian embassy in London this month in a bid to end his four-year-long “diplomatic deadlock,” reports Reuters.

Ecuador has granted the Swedish request for legal assistance in criminal matters and the interview will be conducted by an Ecuadorian prosecutor," said the Swedish Prosecution Authority.

READ MORE: Assange: Clinton is a cog for Goldman Sachs & the Saudis (JOHN PILGER EXCLUSIVE VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT)

The interview will be conducted on November 14 by Swedish assistant prosecutor Ingrid Isgren and a Swedish police investigator, who will report any findings back to Sweden. The investigation concerns sexual assault allegations made against Assange in 2010, which he denies.

Assange has expressed concern that if he goes to Sweden to meet with authorities, he would be extradited to the US, which is investigating him for releasing government documents.

The 45-year-old has lived in Ecuador’s London embassy since being granted asylum there in 2012.

Assange’s stay has been fraught with controversy of late. The Ecuadorian embassy disabled his internet access two weeks ago after WikiLeaks continued to publish emails from the hacked account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta.

A week after Assange’s abrupt internet cut-off, rumors of his death began circulating online, leading his supporters to call for proof of life.

Hacktivist group Anonymous took down the Ecuadorian government’s webmail in retaliation.

READ MORE: Assange ‘shocked’ at Swedish refusal to grant leave for funeral of WikiLeaks director

Swedish prosecutors previously refused to temporarily suspend Assange’s arrest warrant to allow him to leave the embassy to attend the funeral of WikiLeaks director, Gavin MacFayden, or to visit hospital for an MRI.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found Assange to be “arbitrarily and unlawfully detained” by Sweden and the United Kingdom in February.

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Bob Dylan: 'No word' from singer on Nobel Prize for Literature

The body that awards the Nobel Prize for Literature has said it has stopped trying to contact US singer Bob Dylan about being this year's honouree.

"Right now we are doing nothing," said Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy.

"I have called and sent emails to his closest collaborator and received very friendly replies. For now, that is certainly enough."

Dylan has yet to comment about winning the prestigious prize last week.

'Big party'

The 75-year-old performed in Las Vegas shortly after his win was announced but made no mention of the award.

It is not known whether the singer-songwriter will travel to Stockholm to receive his award in person on 10 December.

"If he doesn't want to come, he won't come," Danius told reporters. "It will be a big party in any case and the honour belongs to him."

Dylan is the first person to receive the award for songwriting and the first American to win since 1993.

The balladeer, artist and occasional actor was recognised "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

A message recognising the honour was posted on Dylan's official Facebook page.

More on Bob Dylan

  • Published in Culture

‘Killer clown’ craze now in Sweden as teen stabbed by masked assailant

Swedish police have launched a manhunt after a 19-year-old was stabbed by a man wearing a clown mask south of Goteborg on Thursday night. The attack is thought to be connected with the worldwide ‘killer clown’ craze tormenting communities this Halloween season.

The attacker, who wore a clown mask, blue jeans and a yellow jacket during the assault in Varberg, in the south west of the country, wounded the teen’s shoulder with a sharp object, according to local paper GP.

Although police dog units were dispatched overnight, the attacker still hasn’t been found.

@EmansBlogs Fam these clowns are in the UK

What to do if you're attacked by a mob of clowns:

There have been two similar cases reported in Sweden in recent weeks, where people dressed as clowns were seen outside schools scaring children.

“This is not a crime as such but very, very unpleasant,” police spokeswoman Ulla Brehm told GP. “It is not funny when people are being scared.”

The incidents “likely had spread via social media from the United States,” she added.

Asked to speculate on the motive for the Varberg attack, Brehm said: “We don't know what preceded this. It was not a robbery and I don't know if they had argued before. It's hard to say if this is something to do with this trend from the US, but there was a clown mask at the scene.”

There seem to be much fewer killer clowns in Scotland then England. It's like the map all over again.

Hundreds of incidents have been reported to police and local authorities across the UK in just the last few days, where the craze has also taken hold, including cases of masked clowns holding knives, chainsaws, hatchets and baseball bats.

Fancy dress shops in Briatain have now been advised not to sell clown costumes to people suspected of wanting to follow the fad, but as Halloween approaches more sightings are expected.

Childline, a UK call service for young people seeking advice and support, reported on Friday it had been contacted 120 times in just one week by children frightened by the clown craze.

A quarter of the calls came from children under 11, while more than a third were between 12 and 15. The majority came from Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham.

In a bid to quash the trend, UK police have threatened to arrest anyone caught causing masked mischief. Creating “alarm or distress” is punishable by the Public Order Act and carries a maximum £1,000 fine. This could rise to a jail term if a weapon is carried.

Dr. Adam Lynes, a criminology lecturer at Birmingham City University, told The Sun: “A lot of these people are copycats.”

“We saw similar behavior during the 2011 London riots, with people acting in extreme ways they normally wouldn’t. Putting on a creepy clown mask can have a similar effect, so there is the potential for incidents to spin out of control,” he explained.

  • Published in World

Swedish Court Upholds Assange Arrest Warrant

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been in the Ecuadorean embassy since 2012 out of fear being extradited to the United States if arrested by Sweden.

A Swedish appeals court decided to uphold the arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday, prolonging the six year long legal stand off with prosecutors and clearing the way for the Wikileaks founder to be questioned in London next month.

RELATED: Assange to Accept Time in US Prison if Chelsea Manning Granted Clemency

Assange, 45, is wanted by Swedish authorities for questioning over allegations, which he denies, that he committed rape in 2010.

The founder of WikiLeaks has been living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for more than four years after Swedish investigators issued a European arrest warrant for him in 2012, which required British police to detain Assange and extradite him.

A United Nations working group found in February that Assange was subject to arbitrary detention at the embassy. His lawyers then sought to to throw out the warrant in Sweden in May but a judge upheld it saying “probable cause for suspicion” remained valid against Assange.

Lawyers then appealed the decision in August and but the court has now upheld the judge's ruling.

"The Court of Appeal shares the assessment of the District Court that Julian Assange is still suspected on probable cause of rape," the court said.

Per Samuelson, a Swedish lawyer representing Assange, said he had not yet talked to his client.

"I assume we will appeal, it would be strange if we did not," he said.

The court said the lengthy deadlock and the previous passivity of Swedish prosecutors in pursuing the investigation were arguments for setting aside the warrant, but there remained a strong public interest argument for it remaining in place.

Assange denies the 2010 rape allegations against him, however, he fears that being sent to Sweden would allow the United States to request his extradition to face charges for publicizing U.S. diplomatic cables and other documents from Whistleblower Chelsea Manning published on WikiLeaks.

Ahead of the decision, Assange offered to turn himself over to Washington and serve a prison sentence if President Barack Obama pardons Chelsea Manning.

“If Obama grants Manning clemency, Assange will agree to US prison in exchange -- despite its clear unlawfulness,” WikiLeaks tweeted Thursday.

The ruling came few days after Ecuador set Oct. 17 as the date for the questioning of Assange in its London embassy. Swedish prosecutors have said the questioning will be conducted by an Ecuadorean prosecutor, in the presence of Swedish chief prosecutor Ingrid Isgren and a police investigator.

  • Published in World

Russia Reacts to Sweden Possibly Joining NATO

Moscow, Apr 29 (Prensa Latina) Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that if Sweden decides to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Russia will be obliged to give a technical-military response to this geopolitical change.

  • Published in World
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