Wikileaks' twitter account states that Julian Assange doesn't face charges (as well as not being charged with anything)

UK Foreign Minister falsely states Julian #Assange faces "charges", despite him not being charged with any crime https://twitter.com/foreignoffice/status/236134553431969794

By contrast, this pro-Assange editorial (written in 2010) talks about charges:

According to The Raw Story and Crikey, Swedish prosecutors charge that ... That is the basis for a reinstitution of rape charges against WikiLeaks figurehead Julian Assange ... that the rape charges read of a smear campaign

Is he "facing charges", or isn't he?

If there's no such thing as "facing charges", that'd be a useful answer as well.

  • 1
    A lot happened between 2010 and now. Charges were raised, then dropped, then raised again. Then apparently dropped again. Now he is officially sought for questioning only, but there oddly enough is an international warrant out for him. Not being a lawyer, not being able to make heads nor tails of this, and finally my source being German, this is only a comment. Aug 20, 2012 at 14:00
  • @KonradRudolph Didn't that all happen before December 5 2010, which was when the editorial (or maybe it's a blog post) was written?
    – Golden Cuy
    Aug 21, 2012 at 6:44

4 Answers 4


The problem here is that the Swedish legal system is different from the more familiar Anglo-American system, and a term of art like "charges" can't be relied on to correspond one-to-one between them.

Formally, "An arrest warrant was issued on the basis that Julian Assange is accused with probable cause of the offences [of coercion, molestation, and rape]."1 However, in the Swedish system, this step precedes the opening of a criminal prosecution, which is what "facing charges" would normally mean in English. There is as of yet no criminal case R. v. Assange (or whatever it would be called.) Under Swedish law he has to be arrested before there are "charges" in this sense.

Bottom line: Assange has been formally accused of a crime, and a warrant issued for his arrest, by a legal system which is widely recognized to meet international standards of due process. "Hasn't even been charged" is an attempt to fog the issue – one of many you'll get from his legions of fans on the Internet.

Source: Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority 20111 EWHC 2849, paras 131-154

  • 1
    References for this, please. I appreciate that you are probably right but as you have noted yourself, this is a controversial and heated issue, and especially on this site we require notable references for all substantial claims. This would particularly include your assessment that he has been formally accused of a crime (your quote states a slightly different thing), as well as the details of Swedish justice cited by you. Aug 20, 2012 at 18:52
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    It's all in the judgment I cited. Para 128 onwards, especially paras 142-144 lay it all out. Aug 20, 2012 at 19:56
  • Thanks. That’s indeed notable, explicit and sufficient. This leaves the issue of why he’d been formally charged before, with the charges later dropped. But that doesn’t detract from this answer. Aug 20, 2012 at 20:37

Julian Assange is currently subject to a European Arrest Warrant.

The text of this warrant reads.

I request the person mentioned below be arrested and surrendered for the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution or executing a custodial sentence or detention order.

The standard process in swedish law is for the prosecutor to interview all participants and collect basic evidence before interviewing the suspect and pressing charges.

So no - Assange hasn't been charged, but reading the wording in the EAW, and knowing a little about the role of the Swedish prosecutor leads me to say it is likely that the next interview (the one he has so far avoided) that the next interview was going to end in charges.

This also explains why the Swedish and UK governments refuse to interview him over video-link or in the embassy.

For reference, the legal blogger David Allen Green is good on all the legal questions http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/david-allen-green/2012/08/legal-myths-about-assange-extradition

Key point from the "charged" point of view is shown in comments by the Swedish prosecutor in the supreme court ruling.

7 . According to Swedish law, a formal decision to indict may not be taken at the stage that the criminal process is currently at. Julian Assange's case is currently at the stage of "preliminary investigation". It will only be concluded when Julian Assange is surrendered to Sweden and has been interrogated.

  • 3
    Except that Assange has already been interviewed by the prosecutor, and in fact previous charges had already been dropped. And, lastly, he was explicitly allowed to leave the country. This doesn’t necessarily contradict your answer, it just shows that it may not be as straightforward. Aug 20, 2012 at 14:07
  • 1
    You established the fact that the prosecutors will probably file charges after the interview with Assange. How does that explain the fact that Swedish and UK governments refuse to interview him? The implication is that they don't want to file the charges while he is in the embassy. Why?
    – AlanSE
    Aug 20, 2012 at 15:17
  • @AlanSE because they cant arrest him there ?
    – isJustMe
    Aug 20, 2012 at 16:12
  • @AlanSE If the only reason to "interview" him is because charges and arrest will follow, there really is no point in interviewing him on foreign soil where he can't be charged
    – NotJarvis
    Aug 20, 2012 at 17:14
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    @AndrewGrimm Ah, what a shame. But it’s not the tweets that are protected, it’s the whole account. No idea why the author has in the meantime opted to protect their account, it could be completely unrelated to these tweets. Jan 22, 2013 at 9:49

Assange was wanted for questioning. The original prosecutor dropped the investigation into rape, which was misreported as "charges", by Assange himself (see Jack of Kent link on my site)

This was appealed on behalf of the plaitiff by Claes Borgstorm, her målsägarbiträde (no direct English equivalent - a sort of advisor/counsellor. In Sweden, this is a standard process called "överprövning av åklagarbeslut" and Google does a decentish translation of the government page (link from the 4 corners page)

In 2010, 12% of these appeals resulted in a change of decision. In Assange's case, the next-most senior prosecutor reversed the decision and took over the investigation, which was re-started.

In Sweden, as observed by other posters, the decision to charge comes very late - almost immediately before trial. The High Court Summary gives a clear explanation at the top of page 4 (link all over our site but esp "Resources" and "4 Corners".

I have taken these sources from a website that I admin, and the above links came from our article on the "4 corners" show that recently aired on ABC Australia.

The website has abundant links to primary sources and quotes them where necessary. Feel free to com and have a rummage around. The "Resources" page used to live here on my old blog, and was linked to by Charon QC on his blog page here: Lawcast 219: Carl Gardner on the Assange asylum issues, under the heading "Assange case: a quick reference of legal issues for journalists (with sources)". That page has now moved to WikiWatch.

  • If you edit in marks where you want links and put the links in comments we can edit them into your post to get around the link restrictions for new users. Primary links to authoritative sources are preferred though, links to random blogs are frowned upon.
    – Ryathal
    Sep 12, 2012 at 19:35

Julian Assange was wanted for questioning regarding an accusation of rape and sexual molestation. Assange was only wanted for a "preliminary investigation after it was closed once. It should also be noted that Assange was not informed what the allegations against him were in detail. It is, however, indeed true that questioning is required before one can be charged.

The prosecutor, however, refused to interview Assange in UK. As such, the prosecution stalled. This changed in March 2015, when the prosecutor, Marianne Ny, finally agreed to question Assange in the Ecuador Embassy. The interview was postponed until November 2016. Multiple allegations have already expired.

Assange released his statement in December, 2016, claiming that his Swedish lawyers were not allowed to be present, and noted other irregularities.

It should be noted that there are much criticisms regarding Swedish pre-trial detention. Furthermore, in 2016, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had found that Assange is effectively being held in arbitrary detention.






  • Usually citations are inline, not at the end.
    – Golden Cuy
    Feb 19, 2017 at 20:16

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