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19 May 2017, 11:01 | Terri Saunders
Sweden's top prosecutor said Friday she's dropping an investigation into a rape claim against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after nearly seven years because there's no possibility of arresting him "in the foreseeable future".
WikiLeaks' release of classified material has continued unabated during Assange's five years in the Ecuadorean embassy.
Friday was the deadline for the public prosecutor's office to either renew the pan-European arrest warrant or lift it.
Mr Assange was questioned six months ago in the presence of Swedish officials, who faced criticism for the length of time it has taken to make a decision.
September 1: Sweden's director of prosecutions, Marianne Ny, reopens rape investigation.
September 27: Assange leaves Sweden for Britain.
November 20: Swedish police issue worldwide arrest warrant for Assange.
Assange could fight any USA extradition request in the British courts, a process that could take years.
WikiLeaks says the ball is now in Britain's court after Sweden's decision to drop its rape investigation of Julian Assange.
December 5: Assange granted an appeal to the Supreme Court.
May 30: Supreme Court rejects Assange's appeal. 24 - Assange says WikiLeaks will have to stop publishing secret cables and devote itself to fund-raising. "Evidence in the case is available and that evidence should have been tested in court". He was on bail when he arrived at the Ecuador embassy in Central London nearly five years ago.
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Despite Sweden's decision to drop a rape investigation, British police say that Julian Assange still faces arrest if he leaves Ecuador's London embassy.
July: Assange loses bid to have an arrest warrant issued in Sweden against him canceled. A judge in Stockholm upholds the warrant alleging sexual offences against two women.
September: Assange's lawyers submit a complaint against Sweden and Britain to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention claiming his situation in the embassy amounts to illegal detention.
A lawyer for one of the Swedish women who accused Assange of sexual assault said the prosecution decision to drop the investigation was a "scandal".
Ecuador's foreign minister Guillaume Long said: "Ecuador regrets that the Swedish Prosecutor delayed more than four years in carrying out this interview".
However, if Assange were to return to Sweden before the statute of limitations for the suspected offenses expires in August 2020, the investigation could be reopened, she said.
"The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy", the statement read.
It ends a three-year police operation which is estimated to have cost more than 12 million pounds ($17 million). The then-UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond dismissed the United Nations ruling as "ridiculous". But some experts said the development would put him in an even more precarious legal situation, if the US has a sealed indictment for his arrest.
He argues that the sex was consensual and has denounced the accusations as "politically motived".
Ecuador demands that Britain allows Assange to fly to Quito. The rebuke followed Assange's Twitter blast at the losing candidate.
May 19 - Swedish prosecutors say they are dropping their investigation into Assange over the rape allegation, saying there were no further avenues to pursue to take the investigation forward.
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