Breaking News Emails
Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Patrick Smith
A rape case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be reopened, Swedish prosecutors announced Monday.
Eva-Marie Persson, the country’s deputy director of public prosecutions, said in her view “there is still probable cause to accuse Mr. Assange of rape.”
The Australian national is currently in jail in the U.K., where he is serving a 12-month sentence for skipping bail in 2012, when he was fighting extradition to Sweden in connection with the same case.
Sweden will issue a European arrest warrant and request that he is brought to Stockholm for trial after he has served his British prison sentence.
The decision leaves Britain facing a decision on whether to extradite him to the Scandinavian country or the United States.
Persson said that her team would also seek to interview Assange. “It is my assessment that a new questioning of Assange is required,” she added.
Assange was arrested by police and carried out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he sheltered for almost seven years, on April 11.
The U.S. also is seeking the extradition of Assange, 47, so he can face charges relating to the release of hundreds of thousands of classified military documents provided by Chelsea Manning.
That means a complex legal fight is certain to take place over his future, potentially involving a lengthy appeals process.
“When deciding which has precedence, a Swedish or U.S. extradition request, this decision will be left entirely to the British authorities,” Persson said.
However, the clock is ticking: The statute of limitations on the rape charge expires in August 2020 and Persson confirmed that if there has been no conviction by this point the investigation will end.
Swedish prosecutors filed preliminary charges — a step short of formal charges — against Assange after he visited the country in 2010.
Seven years later, a case of alleged sexual misconduct was dropped when the statute of limitations expired. That left a rape allegation, and the case was closed as it couldn’t be pursued while Assange was living at the embassy and there was no prospect of bringing him to Sweden.
The case was opened following complaints from two Swedish women who said they were the victims of sex crimes committed by Assange. He has denied the allegations, asserting that they were politically motivated and that the sex was consensual.
A police officer who heard the women’s accounts decided there was reason to suspect they were victims of sex crimes and handed the case to a prosecutor.
Assange, who describes himself as a journalist, took refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden.