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Europe

Wikileaks chief to be quizzed inside embassy

Sweden's prosecutor has said Wikileaks founder Julian Assange would be questioned inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he's taken refuge since 2012. The notorious whistleblower faces rape charges in Sweden.

Swedish prosecutors said Monday that an agreement has been reached with Ecuador allowing investigators to interview the WikiLeaks founder inside the Latin American country's London embassy where he has been holed up for four years. Authorities in Stockholm said one of the prosecutors on the case, Ingrid Isgren, as well as a Swedish police inspector would also attend the questioning on November 14 and report the findings to Sweden. 

"A DNA sample will also be taken, provided that Julian Assange agrees to it," the prosecutor's office said in a statement. Assange insists the sexual encounters were consensual.

The 45-year-old Australian national sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012, fleeing allegations of rape and sexual assault in Sweden dating back to 2010. Assange denies the claims and say the charges are politically motivated due to his organization's release of emails and files that are embarrassing to national governments, especially the United States.

His attorney Per Samuelsson told the AFP news agency that Assange would welcome the chance to answer the allegations. "We have requested this interview repeatedly since 2010," Samuelsson said Monday. "Julian Assange has always wanted to tell his version to the Swedish police. He wants a chance to clear his name. We hope the investigation will be closed then."

Prosecutors dropped a sexual assault probe concerning another woman against Assange last year after the five-year statute of limitations expired. But they apparently still want to question him about the 2010 rape allegation, which carries a 10-year statute of limitations.

The Swedish prosecutor's office rejected Assange's request last month to temporarily suspend his arrest warrant so he could leave the embassy to attend the funeral of mentor Gavin MacFayden. Venturing outside of the confines of the embassy - which is legally sovereign Ecuadorian territory - would almost certainly cause him to be immediately arrested by British police and held for extradition to Sweden or possibly the United States.

Washington has long investigated Assange on suspicion of espionage over his organization's 2010 disclosures of diplomatic cables leaked by whistleblower Chelsea Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst who was subsequently prosecuted and jailed for leaking classified information. WikiLeaks recently returned to the spotlight with the damaging leak of tens of thousands of emails from the US Democratic Party and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign.

jar/kms (AFP, Reuters)