Julian Assange has said Sweden’s decision to drop an investigation into allegations of rape against him is an “important victory”.
But on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has been holed up since June 2012, he said he cannot forgive or forget the “terrible injustice” he has suffered.
He told reporters and supporters in central London that his children had grown up without him during the total of seven years he has spent in detention without charge.
Assange criticised the EU during his speech, and said: “The reality is detention and extradition without charge has become a feature of the European Union.”
Although he is no longer facing action from Swedish prosecutors, Assange is still at risk of arrest if he tries to leave the Ecuadorian embassy.
He is wanted by British police for breaching bail conditions – and WikiLeaks is concerned this could result in him being extradited to the US, where he would face prosecution for publishing swathes of classified military and diplomatic documents.
Assange has said the UK is refusing to confirm or deny whether America has made an extradition request – and he insisted he is happy to engage with the US Justice Department.
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The 45-year-old, who is originally from Australia, told his supporters that the road is far from over – and “the proper war is just commencing”.
Prior to his speech, Ecuador’s foreign minister Guillaume Long had said: “Given that the European Arrest Warrant no longer holds, Ecuador will now be intensifying its diplomatic efforts with the UK so that Julian Assange can gain safe passage in order to enjoy his asylum in Ecuador.”
Assange has now been inside the embassy for four years and 334 days.
From outside the embassy, Sky’s Ashish Joshi said: “Assange sounded angry, he sounded triumphant and he sounded defiant.
“When he was speaking he talked about another major victory: Chelsea Manning being released from jail 28 years early because her sentence had been commuted.
“The important distinction is that her sentence was commuted by then president Barack Obama. Is Donald Trump likely to take a lenient approach to Julian Assange? The answer is no.”
Assange had always denied the rape allegation against him, and his accuser said in a statement that she was “shocked” the investigation had ended – describing it as a “scandal”.
Although the investigation has been dropped, Assange has not been exonerated – and Sweden could reopen the case if he returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in 2020.