- Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty
- Prosecutors in Sweden on Monday announced they would reopen their investigation into claims that WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, raped a woman there in 2010. He has denied the claims.
- He was first accused in 2010, but the case was disrupted by Assange’s almost seven-year stay as an asylum seeker in Ecuador’s London embassy.
- Eva-Marie Persson, a senior Swedish prosecutor, said she would pursue the case as she believed there was probable cause to try him.
- Assange is being held in London’s Belmarsh prison, serving a conviction for breaching bail conditions.
- The US is also seeking to prosecute Assange over computer hacking linked to WikiLeaks. It is not clear which case will get precedence.
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Swedish prosecutors have decided to reopen a rape investigation into WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange.
Assange is already serving a prison sentence in the UK for breaching bail conditions, and he also faces extradition to the US on claims of hacking a government computer linked to his activity with WikiLeaks.
Eva-Marie Persson, the lead prosecutor in the case, announced Monday morning that Sweden would reopen its investigation into one allegation of rape.
Persson made the decision for the legal reason that previous court hearings in Sweden established that there was enough evidence to warrant a trial. If convicted, Assange could face up to four years in Swedish prison.
Persson plans to request a warrant for Assange’s detention.
She added that because Assange was being held in the UK, British authorities could decide how to prioritize Sweden’s arrest warrant should it conflict with a US extradition request.
- Screenshot/Sky News
Swedish prosecutors in 2010 had been considering two allegations against Assange. The first was an allegation of rape, and the second was an allegation of molestation. Assange has consistently denied the allegations.
In 2012, the UK ruled that Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face questioning, but this never took place because of his stay in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London as an asylum seeker.
Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation into Assange in August 2015, saying they could not pursue the case while he was in the embassy.
US prosecutors requested Assange’s extradition last month after Ecuador revoked his asylum, and Assange was arrested and forcibly removed from the embassy.
One of the women involved in the Swedish allegations, whose name has not been made public, asked for the investigation to be reopened after Assange’s expulsion from the embassy. Reuters and Sky News reported her lawyer as calling Monday’s decision “very gratifying.”
‘Embarrassing for Sweden’
Assange and his supporters continue to maintain his innocence, and said the reopening of the rape case would let Assange “clear his name.”
Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, said in a statement cited by Reuters “there has always been political pressure surrounding this case,” and that “its reopening will give Julian a chance to clear his name.”
Per Samuelson, Assange’s lawyer in Sweden, described the country’s decision to reopen the rape probe as “embarrassing for Sweden,” according to Reuters.
“His attitude is that he is happy to cooperate with Sweden and that he wants to be interviewed and that he wants to clear his name,” Samuelson also told Reuters.
But the lawyer also added: “How that will happen now, I don’t know. He has his hands full with, for him, much more important issues, namely avoiding being extradited to the US.”
- Henry Nicholls/Reuters
Two weeks ago, a British court sentenced Assange to 50 weeks in prison for breaching bail conditions in the UK and avoiding extradition to Sweden seven years ago.
Assange is being held in the high-security Belmarsh prison in southeast London.