Swedish prosecutors plan to reopen an investigation into a rape allegation against Julian Assange.
The deputy director of public prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson, announced the decision at a press conference on Monday, saying: “I have today taken the decision to reopen the prelminary investigation.”
Prosecutors dropped the investigation in 2017 because they were unable to proceed while the WikiLeaks founder remained in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. They said at the time that the investigation could be reopened if the situation changed.
Assange, 47, was removed from the embassy last month after the Ecuadorian government abruptly withdrew his asylum. Having spent seven years in the building, he was arrested for breach of bail.
A lawyer for one of the women involved in the Swedish allegations subsequently asked for the investigation to be resumed. Assange had also faced an investigation over a second sex-related allegation, but this was dropped in 2015 because time had run out. He has denied both allegations.
Immediately after his arrest in April, U.S. authorities made a request for his extradition in a case relating to WikiLeaks’ release of sensitive military and diplomatic documents. He faces allegations in the U.S. that he conspired with a former intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning, to download classified databases. The charge against him carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Assange is being held in Belmarsh high-security prison in south London after being sentenced to 50 weeks’ jail for a bail violation.
He appeared by videolink at Westminster magistrates court on 2 May to say he did not consent to being extradited to the US. The court heard that the extradition process would take “many months” and the case was adjourned until 30 May.
The Swedish allegations date back to 2010. Assange unsuccessfully fought in the British courts to have the Swedish extradition order and preliminary investigation dropped. His lawyers said he feared that should he go to Sweden, authorities could hand him over to the US to face prosecution over the WikiLeaks case.
WikiLeaks said the reopening of the Swedish investigation would give Assange a chance to clear his name.
“Since Julian Assange was arrested on 11 April 2019 there has been considerable political pressure on Sweden to reopen their investigation, but there has always been political pressure surrounding this case,” Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, said in a statement. “Its reopening will give Julian a chance to clear his name.”
Credit: The Guardian, www.theguardian.com