LONDON - WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange has said that “the battle is over but the war has just begun” after Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigations into rape allegations against him.
Standing on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in a brown leather jacket, he raised a clenched fist but then lambasted the Metropolitan police’s threat to still arrest him on charges of skipping bail as “untenable”.
“Today is an important victory for me and for the UN’s human rights system. But it by no means erases the years of detention without charge in prison, under house arrest and almost five years here in this embassy without sunlight, seven years without charge while my children grew up without me. And that is not something I can forget, it is not something I can forgive,” he said.
Reporters and photographers were joined by curious passersby and tourists as the crowd swelled during the day after the Swedish announcement in the morning. But Assange kept the throng waiting for seven hours before addressing them.
In a speech lasting about 10 minutes that was frequently interrupted by a heckler shouting “what is the truth?” and comparing Assange to the central character in Life of Brian, the Wikileaks founder took aim at Sweden, the UK, the EU, specifically its extradition system and the US.
“While today is an important victory and an important vindication, the road is far from over, the war is just commencing. The UK has said it will arrest me regardless ... the claim by the UK that it has a right to arrest me for seeking asylum in a case where there have been no charges is simply untenable,” Assange added.
He said a more important victory was the release of Chelsea Manning earlier this week but made no mention of his accusers.
Assange said he had spent seven years either under house arrest or living inside the embassy, without charge, as he faced rape allegations in Sweden, which he has always denied.
Detention and extradition without charge had become a feature of the EU but it was not something expected from the rule of law in the UK, he said.
Assange thanked the government of Ecuador for granting him political asylum despite “intense pressure,” as well as his legal team and others who had stood by him.