Julian Assange: UK police drop 24-hour embassy guard

Published 10:33 AM EDT, Mon October 12, 2015

Story highlights

London's Metropolitan Police says it is dropping its 24-hour guard of Julian Assange

The WikLeaks founder has been holed up in Ecuador's Embassy in London since July 2012

Sweden wants to extradite Assange so he can be questioned over rape allegations

(CNN) —  

Police are no longer guarding WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange around the clock, London’s Metropolitan Police said Monday, but are deploying “a number of overt and covert tactics to arrest him.”

Assange has been holed up in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy for more than three years to avoid extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors want to question him over 2010 rape allegations.

The Australian has not been charged and denies the allegations.

Assange has said he fears Sweden would extradite him to the United States, where he could face the death penalty if he is charged and convicted of publishing government secrets through WikiLeaks.

Deployment ‘no longer proportionate’

The Metropolitan Police Service said it remained “committed to executing the arrest warrant and presenting Julian Assange before the court,” but that it continually reviewed its policing operation.

“As a result of this continual review the MPS has today Monday, 12 October withdrawn the physical presence of officers from outside the Embassy,” it said in a statement.

“The operation to arrest Julian Assange does however continue and should he leave the Embassy the MPS will make every effort to arrest him. However it is no longer proportionate to commit officers to a permanent presence.”

The force said it had discussed its decision with Britain’s Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“Like all public services, MPS resources are finite. With so many different criminal, and other, threats to the city it protects, the current deployment of officers is no longer believed proportionate.”

Some charges dropped

In August, prosecutors announced they were dropping allegations involving sexual molestation and coercion as statutes of limitations in the investigation were running out. Assange can still be investigated on suspicion of rape until 2020, they said.

In May, the Swedish Supreme Court denied Assange’s latest appeal to dismiss an arrest warrant over the allegations.

Prosecutors have agreed to look into conducting interviews in London to move the investigation forward, but the court sees “no reason” to lift the arrest warrant, the Supreme Court said then.