Published: Tue, May 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Sweden resumes rape investigation against Julian Assange

Sweden resumes rape investigation against Julian Assange

Swedish prosecutors said Monday they are reopening a rape case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and will seek his extradition from Britain.

Prosecutors believe there is still "probable cause to suspect that Assange committed a rape", Sweden's head prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said.

"It is my assessment that a new questioning of Assange is required", Persson also said.

Assange was accused of rape based on a complaint from two women, aged 25 and 35 years old, claiming that the WikiLeaks founder had sexually assaulted them during his visit to Sweden in 2010.

With the statute of limitations on the rape allegation against Assange expiring in August 2020, prosecutors have reopened the case before their time runs out.

Assange said he would welcome Swedish prosecutors coming to the embassy to question him, and prepared a written statement, but documents uncovered in a FOIA request by Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi showed heavy pressure from the British government on Sweden not to come to London.

The charge against him carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hraffnson said Monday that Sweden's "investigation has been dropped before and its reopening will give Julian a chance to clear his name".

The 47-year-old Assange is locked up at Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail in Britain. Assange was subsequently granted asylum by Ecuador and remained in their embassy for seven years, before being dismissed last month.

The decision comes nearly two years to the day after Sweden's director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, said she was unable to continue the probe after Assange took up residence in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012.

Persson said a European arrest warrant will be issued for Assange. The case was dropped by Swedish prosecutors in 2017.

Assange is already facing a provisional extradition request from the US for one count of conspiring with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to access US Defense Department computers in order to steal military secrets in 2010.

Persson told a press conference in Stockholm on Monday that it would be up to British authorities to determine which extradition request-to Sweden or to the US - would take precedence.

The Swedish lawyer for Assange, Per E. Samuelson said he was "very surprised" by the decision to reopen the investigation. Earlier this month, he refused to voluntarily surrender to extradition, saying he would not give himself up for "doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many people".

He declined an extradition request from the United States on 2 May.

The British courts will have to rule on any extradition request and Home Secretary Sajid Javid would decide which one takes precedence once Swedish prosecutors file theirs.

A United Kingdom court ordered Assange should face extradition to face these charges, before he sought political asylum in the embassy.

Stockholm had first issued a European warrant on Assange in 2010 after the two women accused him of sexual molestation and assault, and British police arrested him. Hrafnsson argued that the "case has been mishandled throughout", and claimed there had "always been political pressure surrounding" it.

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