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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange rape investigation 'will not proceed'

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By Euronews & Reuters
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves Southwark Crown Court after being sentenced in London, Britain, May 1, 2019.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves Southwark Crown Court after being sentenced in London, Britain, May 1, 2019.   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo   -  

Sweden will not proceed with a rape investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Deputy Director of Public Prosecution, Eva-Marie Persson, said that the evidence for the allegation - which relates to an incident in 2010 - was not sufficient to prove a criminal act was committed.

One of Assange's lawyers, Juan Branco, told Euronews that the legal team is "relieved that we are finally rid of this stigma and that we can focus on our goal to prevent his extradition to the US and give him his freedom back."

The case was shelved in 2017 when Assange was resident in London's Ecuadorian embassy, where he was holed up for seven years until being removed in April 2019. Persson said the case was dropped at this point because it was not possible for Britain to extradite Assange to Sweden.

But once Assange left the embassy in April, "this impediment to enforcement was removed", she said, at which point lawyers representing the alleged victim requested that the case be re-opened.

Since then, she said the prosecutors had interviewed a total of seven witnesses, five that were spoken to during the original investigation and two other individuals.

But the evidence it has gathered was "not sufficient to deem that the alleged criminal act can be proven."

Branco condemned as "political" the fact that the investigation into the rape allegation was opened three times, stressing that "he was never the subject of a formal accusation, he was only suspected."

He also said that Assange, 48, who is currently incarcerated in the UK preparing to fight extradition to the US, has been "weakened by detention conditions which are absolutely extraordinary".

"He is locked up in a prison built to hold terrorists, isolated 24 hours a day with very limited access, no access to a computer or any means of communication. His conditions of detention were considered by the UN Special Rapporteur as tantamount to torture," he added.

The Australian journalist is wanted in the US for violating an espionage law and conspiring to hack government computers.

He faces up to 175 years in a US prison if convicted.