- Thomson Reuters
Julian Assange’s surreal four-year confinement in an embassy in Knightsbridge may be slowly reaching its conclusion.
Ecuador will allow Swedish prosecutors to interview Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in its London embassy ,where Assange has been living since June 2012, Ecuador’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
Swedish authorities want to question Assange, 45, over allegations that he committed rape in 2010. He denies the allegations. He avoided possible extradition to Sweden by taking refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London, and maintains the case is politically motivated and a possible precursor to extradition to the US to stand trial for his work with Wikileaks.
“In the coming weeks, a date will be established for the proceedings to be held at the Embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom”, Ecuador’s foreign ministry said in the statement.
In late May, a Swedish lower court upheld the arrest warrant for Assange, saying the stay at Ecuador’s London embassy did not equal detention.
And last year, Sweden’s Supreme Court rejected a previous appeal by Assange to revoke a detention order.
Sweden has only recently agreed to interview Assange inside the embassy – previously insisting he come to the country for questioning.
“For more than four years, the government of Ecuador has offered to cooperate in facilitating the questioning of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, as well as proposing other political and legal measures, in order to reach a satisfactory solution for all parties involved in the legal case against Julian Assange, to end the unnecessary delays in the process and to ensure full and effective legal protection, Ecuador said in a statement, Press Association reported.
“In line with this position, Ecuador proposed to Sweden the negotiation of an agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, which was signed last December and which provides the legal framework for the questioning.”
Julian Assange has been in the embassy for so long that the statute of limitations expired for some of the allegations facing him have expired.
However, the more serious allegations of rape will not expire until 2020 – meaning that if Swedish prosecutors do not ultimately drop their investigation, or if Ecuador does not surrender Assange willingly, he could remain in the embassy for another four years.
(Reporting by Violette Goarant; editing by Sven Nordenstam, Larry King)