Assange challenges prosecutors to meeting

  • 14/08/2015
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (AAP)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (AAP)

By Lloyd Jones

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says Swedish prosecutors pursuing him over sex assault claims have avoided hearing his side of the story entirely and their actions are "beyond incompetence".

The 44-year-old Australian lashed out at prosecutors as Swedish officials confirmed investigations into some of the allegations against him were being dropped as they had reached their five-year time limit.

Assange has been wanted for questioning over 2010 sex claims by two women in Sweden, which he strongly denies.

He fought extradition to Sweden on fears he would be handed over to the United States over secret documents published by his whistleblowing organisation.

Assange has been holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than three years and has been granted political asylum by the South American nation.

In a statement on Thursday (local time), Assange said he was an innocent man and hadn't been charged.

He was facing four allegations of sexual assault, but under Sweden's statute of limitations two of the claims expire on Thursday and a third expires early next week.

But Assange is still wanted for questioning on an allegation of rape that doesn't expire until 2020.

Assange said he was "extremely disappointed", saying the Swedish prosecutor had managed to avoid hearing his side of the story entirely.

"From the beginning I offered simple solutions. Come to the embassy to take my statement or promise not to send me to the United States.

"This Swedish official refused both. She even refused a written statement," he said, referring to the prosecutor.

"Now she has managed to avoid hearing my side of the story entirely. This is beyond incompetence. I am strong but the cost to my family is unacceptable," Assange said.

"Even though I have been improperly treated, I would like to thank the many people in Sweden and the UK who have been very understanding of the wrong which has been done to me and my family."

A statement on Thursday from the office of Sweden's Director of Public Prosecutions Marianne Nye said: "Julian Assange, on his own accord, has evaded prosecution by seeking refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador.

"As the statute of limitation has run [out] on some of the crimes, I am compelled to discontinue the investigation with respect to these crimes.

"I regret having to say that this means there will be no closure with regard to these events, as we have not been able to interview the suspect."

The statement added that a Swedish request to interview Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy was submitted at the beginning of June, "but a permission has yet to be received".

"I still hope, however, that I will be able to arrange for an interview, as there are ongoing negotiations between Sweden and Ecuador," the DPP said.

Prominent Australian journalist John Pilger said that by dropping most of the allegations "Sweden has finally admitted to the grotesque injustice its judicial and political elite have perpetrated against Assange for almost five years".

"Assange's only crime is to have told the world about the epic lies, manipulation and warmongering of the United States," he said in a statement.

"Those who have seen the 'evidence' in the Swedish case know it has been a farce from day one, including the allegation he is said to still face."

Pilger slammed the Australian government's "shocking abandonment of a citizen charged with nothing – for the craven purpose of appeasing a rapacious foreign power".

Julian Assange Defence Committee members Gavin MacFayden and Susan Benn said that contrary to the prosecutor's comments, Swedish authorities had for three years been offered the option of taking Assange's statement at the embassy but had refused.