Sweden to seek extradition of Assange over rape charges
Sweden reopened an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange yesterday and will seek his extradition from Britain, potentially delaying efforts by the United States to bring him to its courts to face trial over a huge release of secret documents.
Deputy Chief Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson told a news conference she would continue a preliminary investigation that was dropped in 2017 without charges being brought because Assange had taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
Assange was arrested in Britain last month after spending seven years hiding inside the embassy.
The United States is also seeking his extradition on conspiracy charges relating to the public release by WikiLeaks of a cache of secret documents, including assessments of foreign leaders, wars and security matters.
The Swedish prosecutor said it would request Assange be detained in his absence on probable cause for an allegation of rape and that it would issue a European arrest warrant, the process under which his extradition would be sought.
The 47-year-old Australian, who denies the allegations, is in a London prison serving 50 weeks behind bars for jumping bail when he fled to the Ecuadorean embassy in 2012.
The decision to reopen the investigation poses the question of whether Assange will be moved to Sweden or to the United States. “I am well aware of the fact that an extradition process is ongoing in the UK and that he could be extradited to the US,” Persson said.
A British judge has given the US government a deadline of June 12 to outline its case against Assange.
The statute of limitation for rape in Sweden is 10 years, a deadline which would be reached in mid-August next year for the alleged incident involving Assange, leaving prosecutors pressed for time should they decide to file any formal charge.
“Everything depends on how this will be handled by the British authorities and courts,” said Mark Klamberg, a professor of international law at Stockholm University.
“There is a possibility, or risk depending on how you see it, that this is going to take a long time,” he said, adding that a US extradition of Assange would likely rule out him being tried in Sweden due to the statute of limitation.
Responding to the reopening of the Swedish investigation, WikiLeaks said it would give Assange a chance to clear his name.