Assange hails victory after Sweden drops probe, says prepared to end impasse
By Simon Johnson and Michael Holden
STOCKHOLM/LONDON (Reuters) - Swedish prosecutors dropped an investigation of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday over a rape allegation, but British police said he would still be arrested if he left the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he has been holed up for five years.
Assange, 45, took refuge in the embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden after two women made rape and sexual molestation allegations against him, which he denies.
He feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks' publication of swathes of classified military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.
Appearing on the balcony of the embassy after the Swedish announcement, Assange said he was ready to talk to Britain "about what is the best way forward" and with the U.S. Department of Justice, but also defended his right to stay put.
"The road is far from over. The war, the proper war is just commencing," he told supporters and media after raising a clenched fist in a gesture of victory.
Police in London said they were still obliged to arrest Assange if he left the embassy for skipping bail. They said this was a much less serious offence than rape, but he could still face up to a year in jail if convicted.
Assange is a cyber hero to some for exposing government abuses of power and championing free speech, but to others he is a criminal who has undermined the security of the West.
The former computer hacker enraged Washington by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables that laid bare often highly critical U.S. appraisals of world leaders from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Saudi royal family. Continued...