London Police Say They're Still Obligated to Arrest Assange

On Friday, Swedish prosecutors said they dropped their preliminary rape investigation into Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. But that doesn't mean he can just leave the embassy.

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May 19 2017, 11:05am

On Friday, Swedish prosecutors announced that they have dropped their suspected rape investigation into Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. But the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), which serves London, says it is still obligated to arrest Assange if he does decide to leave the Ecuadorian embassy, where he has been holed up for over half a decade.

"Westminster Magistrates' Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange following him failing to surrender to the court on the 29 June 2012," the MPS said in a statement published Friday. "The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy."

As the MPS acknowledges, this is a much less serious crime than the one Swedish prosecutors were investigating. As legal commentator David Allen Green pointed out on Twitter, Assange may face up to a year in prison for breaching bail if convicted.

With that in mind, the MPS says it will provide resources to arresting Assange that are proportionate to the lesser offense.

"Whilst Mr Assange was wanted on a European Arrest Warrant for an extremely serious offence, the MPS response reflected the serious nature of that crime," the statement added. "Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence."

That announcement seems unlikely to sway Assange or Wikileaks, however, which fears that Assange's arrest may eventually lead to extradition to the US.

"UK states it will arrest Assange regardless & refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received an extradition request from the US," Wikileaks tweeted after the news broke.

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