Swedish prosecutors Friday dropped a seven-year rape investigation into Julian Assange, a legal victory for the WikiLeaks founder who has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012.
But British police said they would still arrest Assange if he tried to leave the embassy, saying he had breached the terms of his bail by refusing to turn himself in when an arrest warrant was issued in 2012.
Friday was the deadline for the public prosecutor's office to either renew the pan-European arrest warrant or lift it.
"Director of Public Prosecution, Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape by Julian Assange," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
Shortly after the announcement, Assange posted on Twitter a picture of himself smiling broadly, without comment.
The United Nations said US/UK in violation of international law over Julian Assange @JulianAssange @wikileaks #FreeJulian #FreeAssange now! pic.twitter.com/rK2gc2lYXr — Red Pill⏳ (@RedPillDropper) May 19, 2017
Assange's Swedish lawyer last month filed a new motion demanding that the arrest warrant be lifted after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April that arresting Assange would be "a priority".
The accusation against Assange dated from August 2010 when the alleged victim, who says she met him at a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm a few days earlier, filed a complaint.
She accused him of having sex with her as she slept without using a condom despite repeatedly having denied him unprotected sex.
"I am entirely innocent," Assange wrote in a 19-page testimony released in December 2016.
He argues that the sex was consensual and has denounced the accusations as "politically motived".
The investigation had suffered from multiple procedural complications since it began.
The statute of limitations on the rape allegation expires in August 2020.
In a letter sent to the Swedish government on May 8, Ecuador condemned "the obvious lack of progress" in the investigation despite Assange's questioning in the presence of the Swedish prosecutor at the embassy in November 2016.
BREAKING: Sweden has dropped its case against Julian Assange and will revoke its arrest warrantBackground: https://t.co/UHj8QtwrTh — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 19, 2017
"It is extremely worrying that six months after the hearing at the Embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom, the Swedish prosecutor's office has not yet decided on the judicial situation of Julian Assange," the Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry said in a letter.
Swedish judges have refused to take into account the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which in February 2016 said Assange was effectively "arbitrarily detained" by Sweden and Britain and called for the arrest warrant to be annulled.