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 of hacking Pentagon computers to steal confidential 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 said the decision to reopen the case was “an embarrassment” to Sweden, but added that the WikiLeaks founder wants to help in the investigation and only fears extradition to the US.
Also read: The Crimes of Julian Assange
Swedish prosecutors filed preliminary charges — a step short of formal charges — after Assange’s visit to the Scandanavian country in 2010. The investigation was prompted by complaints from two Swedish women who said they were victims of sex crimes by Assange, who met them in connection with a lecture in Stockholm in August 2010. Assange fled to the UK to avoid the charges, taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition.
One of the charges, a case of alleged sexual misconduct, was dropped in 2017 after the statue 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.