Swedish prosecutors drop rape probe against WikiLeaks’s Assange

This file photo taken on February 5, 2016 shows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addresses the media from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in central London. (AFP)
Updated 19 May 2017
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Swedish prosecutors drop rape probe against WikiLeaks’s Assange

STOCKHOLM: Swedish prosecutors Friday dropped a seven-year rape investigation into Julian Assange, a legal victory for the WikiLeaks founder who has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012.
“Director of Public Prosecution, Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape by Julian Assange,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Friday was the deadline for the public prosecutor’s office to either renew or lift Assange’s arrest warrant before a Stockholm court.
Shortly after the decision, Assange posted a picture of himself smiling broadly, without comment.
Ny and Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren are to brief reporters on the decision at 12:00pm (1000 GMT) on Friday.
The 45-year-old Australian has always denied the 2010 allegations, which he feared would see him extradited to the United States and tried over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents.
He has been living at the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012 and risks being arrested by British police if he steps out of the building.
British police have said they will arrest Assange as soon as he walks out of the embassy because he has broken his conditions for bail — a relatively minor offense under British law — by failing to surrender on June 29, 2012 for extradition to Sweden.
Assange’s Swedish lawyer last month filed a new motion demanding that the arrest warrant be lifted after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April that arresting Assange would be “a priority.”
“This implies that we can now demonstrate that the US has a will to take action... this is why we ask for the arrest warrant to be canceled so that Julian Assange can fly to Ecuador and enjoy his political asylum,” lawyer Per Samuelsson told AFP at the time.
The accusation against Assange dated from August 2010 when the alleged victim, who says she met him at a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm a few days earlier, filed a complaint.
She accused him of having sex with her as she slept without using a condom despite repeatedly having denied him unprotected sex.
“I am entirely innocent,” Assange wrote in a 19-page testimony released in December 2016.
He argues that the sex was consensual and has denounced the accusations as “politically motived.”
The investigation had suffered from multiple procedural complications since it began.
The statute of limitations on the rape allegation expires in August 2020.
In a letter sent to the Swedish government on May 8, Ecuador condemned “the obvious lack of progress” in the investigation despite Assange’s questioning in the presence of the Swedish prosecutor at the embassy in November 2016.
“It is extremely worrying that six months after the hearing at the Embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom, the Swedish prosecutor’s office has not yet decided on the judicial situation of Julian Assange,” the Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry said in the letter seen by AFP.
Swedish judges have refused to take into account the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which in February 2016 said Assange was effectively “arbitrarily detained” by Sweden and Britain and called for the arrest warrant to be annulled.


Pakistan welcomes, but India rejects Chinese envoy’s call for ‘peace talks’

Updated 6 min 31 sec ago
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Pakistan welcomes, but India rejects Chinese envoy’s call for ‘peace talks’

  • Islamabad is willing to talk to India 'bilaterally, trilaterally, or multilaterally — the important thing is dialogue,' says Mushahid Hussain
  • India is wary because of Pakistan's 'close strategic alliance' with China, says Ashok Behuria

NEW DELHI, ISLAMABAD: The Indian government has rejected a Chinese call for a trilateral meeting to help resolve tensions between India and Pakistan, saying that the relationship between the nuclear rivals was “purely bilateral.”
On Monday, China’s ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, urged India and Pakistan to meet with China on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Eurasian political, economic and security forum with eight countries, including India and Pakistan, as members.
The envoy made his remarks in a speech at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi on the theme “Beyond Wuhan: How far and fast can China-India relations go?”
“If China, Russia and Mongolia can have a trilateral summit, then why not India, China and Pakistan?” Luo asked.
India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, said on Tuesday that the ministry had seen reports of the Chinese envoy’s comments, but had not received any official offer from the Chinese government.
“We consider the statement as the personal opinion of the ambassador,” he said. “Matters related to India-Pakistan relations are purely bilateral in nature and have no scope for the involvement of any third country.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry also said on Tuesday that China had not officially communicated the offer to Islamabad.
Dr. Mohammed Faisal, a Foreign Office spokesman, told Arab News the ministry was unaware of the Chinese gesture. He declined to comment further.
The Chinese envoy’s remarks reflect growing fears in Beijing that rivalry between India and Pakistan could threaten its One Belt One Road development strategy to connect Eurasian countries through a trillion-dollar trade corridor.
Since 1947 India has been involved in four wars and countless border skirmishes with Pakistan, and the two continue to wrestle for dominance in the subcontinent. China is also a political and military ally of Islamabad.
Apart from its distrust of Pakistan, India is also deeply wary of China.
Last June the two countries were locked in a face-off on the Doklam plateau at the trijunction between India, Bhutan and China, an area disputed by China and Bhutan.
Ashok Behuria, the coordinator of the South Asia Center at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, described the Chinese envoy’s idea as a “non-starter.”
“India officially will never consider it,” Behuria said.
“India opposes any suggestion of mediation with Pakistan, so that will always stand in the way of a tripartite meet. And because of the close strategic alliance between Pakistan and China, India will be doubly wary of such a suggestion.”
Lt. Gen. (Retd) S.L. Narasimhan, a China expert, dismissed the Chinese offer, saying India would not welcome third-party intervention.
“China seems to be trying to get into the role of mediation— this is not the first issue it has offered to mediate,” he said.
“If someone is trying to mediate on your behalf, he attains a position where he can adjudicate and increase his influence,” Narasimhan said. “That is what China seems to be trying here.”
However, Luo’s comments were welcomed by Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Committee and head of the Pakistan-China Institute.
“The proposal has been made by a senior diplomat who has served in Pakistan and comes in the context of some major developments,” Sayed told Arab News.
“One is the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Wuhan, where they held a six-hour talk. The second is the discussion between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. The third is the sudden strengthening of the Afghan peace process in which again China is the factor.
“China is keen because it has launched what is probably the most important diplomatic and development initiative of the 21st century — Xi’s ‘belt and road’ strategy,” he said.
“Beijing feels there should be an environment of peace, security and stability in Asia to provide the context for operations and connectivity sought under the belt and road initiative.”
Sayed said Pakistan is willing to talk to India “bilaterally, trilaterally, or multilaterally — the important thing is dialogue.”
“If North Korea and America can have a dialogue over Korean issues, why not Pakistan and India over Kashmir and other bilateral issues that affect our relations?“
Analysts say India is unlikely to agree to talks with Islamabad before Pakistan’s elections in July. New Delhi is relying on informal communication channels, though with Indian elections due in 2019 it is unclear if the Modi administration would change its position on a resumption of dialogue.

Sayed said China has immense trade leverage over India, with New Delhi “feeling isolated from the general trend in the region.”
“India is feeling the pressure, diplomatically and otherwise,” he said.

“There is a difference between Indian policy and its posturing, and sooner or later it will have to come to the conference table to start talking to Pakistan rather than talking at Pakistan,” he said.