London. /AFP/ Prison time in Britain? A life in Ecuador? Extradition to the United States? Another five years in Ecuador's London embassy? WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's future could now follow many different paths.
Swedish prosecutors said Friday that they were dropping a rape investigation into Assange because there was no reason to believe he would be brought to Sweden in the foreseeable future.
He claimed asylum with Ecuador in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden -- and, he feared, from there to the United States, to face trial for leaking secret US military and diplomatic documents.
The Australian former computer hacker has been holed up inside the Ecuadoran embassy ever since.
Police say an arrest warrant remains active for Assange for breaching his bail conditions, after he failed to appear in court to accept his extradition.
Here are the main possible scenarios:
- Fine -
Assange leaves the embassy and is arrested, but moves quickly through the British courts process, before being given a minor fine.
He is then free to go about his business and resume his WikiLeaks work more directly and publicly.
- Jail term -
Assange is arrested and held for months while his case progresses, before being given a prison sentence that could reach a maximum of one year.
- Extradition to the United States -
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month that "we will seek to put some people in jail" when asked if arresting Assange was a "priority" for Washington.
Prosecutors have been drafting a memo that looks at charges against Assange and WikiLeaks members that possibly include conspiracy, theft of government property and violations of the Espionage Act, according to The Washington Post.
US President Donald Trump's administration has put heat on WikiLeaks after it embarrassed the Central Intelligence Agency in March by releasing files and computer code from the spy agency's top-secret hacking operations.
- Extradition to Sweden -
David Allen Green, a law commentator for The Financial Times, suggested that if Assange left the embassy and was arrested, Sweden could resume its case.
He said the case being dropped was "an administrative decision to stop expending resources" when there was "no clear path to extradition".
"If Assange went into British custody then the Swedes may well revisit their decision on proportionality, as extradition suddenly easier," he tweeted.
Marianne Ny, Sweden's director of public prosecutions, said the investigation could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before August 2020, when the statute of limitations on the allegations against him ends.
- Safe passage to Ecuador -
Ecuador on Friday urged Britain to grant Assange "safe passage" out of the country.
"The European Arrest Warrant no longer holds. The UK must now grant safe passage to Mr Julian Assange," Foreign Minister Guillaume Long wrote on Twitter.
This possibility could take place only once the English legal system has finished with him for jumping bail.
- Stay put -
Assange stays right where he is, in the red-brick flat at 3 Hans Crescent, continuing his work with WikiLeaks.
His room, which measures 18 square metres (190 square feet), has a bed, computer, sun lamp, treadmill and a microwave, and he has a cat for company.