Julian Assange: Sweden reopens rape case | News | DW | 13.05.2019
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Julian Assange: Sweden reopens rape case

With just one year to go before the statute of limitations expires, Swedish prosecutors have reopened a rape case against Julian Assange. Whether the WikiLeaks founder will face trial in Sweden now depends on Britain.

Watch video 00:28

Swedish prosecutor reopens sex assault probe against Assange

Prosecutors in Sweden said Monday they are reopening a preliminary investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The relaunch leaves the UK, who arrested Assange last month for jumping bail, deciding whether to extradite him to Sweden or to the United States, where he faces charges in connection with the leaking of government documents.

What was announced:

Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden's deputy director of public prosecutors, said: 

  • "There is still a probable cause to suspect that Assange committed rape."
  • "The previous decision (in May 2017) to close the investigation was not based on difficulties related to evidence, but on difficulties that blocked the investigation."
  • "It is my assessment that a new questioning of Assange is required."

'A chance to clear his name'

WikiLeaks said the reopening of the investigation gives 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," WikiLeaks' chief editor Kristinn Hrafnsson said in a statement.

The Swedish lawyer for Assange, Per E. Samuelson, said he was "very surprised" by the decision to reopen the investigation.

"It's embarrassing for Sweden to reopen the investigation," Samuelson told Swedish broadcaster SVT. "He has always wanted to help solve this Swedish issue."

Samuelson added that his client's "big predicament in life is that he risks being extradited to the United States because of his journalistic work."

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Rape charges: Swedish prosecutors filed preliminary charges — a step short of formal charges — after Assange's visit to the Scandinavian country in 2010. The investigation was prompted by complaints from two Swedish women who said they were victims of sexual assault by the Australian, who met them in connection with a lecture in Stockholm in August 2010. Having left Sweden for the UK in September 2010, Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012 to avoid extradition. 

One of the charges, a case of alleged sexual misconduct, was dropped in 2017 after the statute of limitations expired. That left a rape allegation with a statute of limitation until 2020 but prosecutors couldn't pursue it because there was no prospect of bringing Assange to Sweden while he was in the embassy.

Behind bars in the UK: Assange is currently serving a 50-week sentence in London's Belmarsh Prison for jumping bail in 2012. He was arrested by British police last month after Ecuador revoked his political asylum, accusing him of poor hygiene in the embassy and meddling in the South American nation's foreign affairs.

US charges: Assange is also being held on a US extradition warrant. He is accused by the United States of conspiring with Chelsea Manning to hack into Pentagon computers and steal confidential documents, some of which contained sensitive material pertaining to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has also been the subject of discussion in the US for the role WikiLeaks played in the publishing of emails stolen by Russian hackers during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

Assange said in a London court earlier this month that he will not "surrender" himself "for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many, many people."

dv/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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