Sweden drops sex offence allegations against Assange

Swedish prosecutors have dropped their investigation into sexual offences allegedly committed by Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, judging that witnesses’ memories are too hazy to corroborate his accuser’s account after nine years.

“After completing the investigation, it is now clear that oral testimony supporting the claimant’s account has weakened,” Eva-Marie Persson, deputy director of public prosecution, said in Stockholm yesterday.

“This is mostly due to the length of time that has passed since the events. Naturally, memories fade.”

Since reopening the case in May, Ms Persson had interviewed seven witnesses but had yet to question Assange himself. The 48-year-old remains in London’s Belmarsh prison awaiting a hearing next February over possible extradition to the US, where he faces 18 criminal charges related to the 2010 release of thousands of classified documents detailing US military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Nils Melzer, UN special rapporteur on torture, called for an investigation into Sweden’s treatment of Assange, arguing that it had always been “inevitable” the case would be discontinued, given “its gross arbitrariness”. Ms Persson yesterday stressed that she had found the account given by Assange’s accuser “credible and reliable” and her statements “coherent, extensive and detailed”.

However, in cases where guilt comes down to whose account is more credible, the accuser’s or the alleged perpetrator’s, she explained, additional corroborative evidence is required under Swedish law.

The case was first launched in August 2010 after two women visited a police station to report the Australian for two sexual offences. Assange has always denied both allegations.

The statute of limitations on Anna Ardin’s allegation expired in 2015, and in 2017, a Swedish prosecutor closed the second case, only for it to be reopened again following Assange’s arrest by UK police earlier this year.

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer for Assange’s unnamed accuser, said she disagreed with the decision to lay down the case. “Both my own and my client’s judgment is that my client’s account is supported by solid written evidence,” she said.

Per E Samuelson, Assange’s lawyer, said that he believed his client’s high profile skewed the way he was treated.

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