The Slatest

Sweden Set to Drop Sexual Assault Investigation of Julian Assange as Charges Expire

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy on Aug. 19, 2012 in London, England.

Photo by Rosie Hallam/Getty Images

Several of the sexual assault allegations Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been camped out at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for three years to avoid will likely be dropped as the statutes of limitations on the alleged crimes are set to expire. Assange has maintained his innocence as he has sought asylum at the embassy to avoid extradition for the assault allegations in Sweden. Two of the allegations will expire on Thursday, and a third is set to pass the 5-year time limit next week. The final, most serious charge of rape can be pursued until 2020 and carries a potential 4-year jail term.

The geopolitics of the case have loomed large in the years-long standoff; Assange believes the trumped-up charges are a means to extradite him to the U.S., where he could face charges for Wikileaks’ publishing of thousands of classified diplomatic cables in 2010. Under Swedish law criminal charges cannot be filed without authorities interviewing the accused, the BBC notes. Assange walked into the Ecuadorean Embassy in June 2012 and has not left; Swedish prosecutors have been unable to negotiate an agreement to gain access to Assange, who has said he is willing to talk with Swedish authorities. “We are convinced that as soon as he has the opportunity to give his version of the circumstances, there’ll be no need to continue the investigation,” one of Assange’s lawyers said of the remaining rape allegation.

“Per Samuelson, a lawyer for Mr. Assange, said that technically, it might still be possible for prosecutors to pursue all of the allegations, even those whose statutes of limitations are about to expire, if they were reclassified as investigations into more serious crimes,” the New York Times reports.