WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been locked in a stalemate with Swedish authorities over sexual assault allegations for years. Now it seems Assange will finally be questioned by Swedish prosecutors—on his own terms and not in Sweden.
Facing an impending statute of limitations in the nearly five-year-old sexual assault case, Swedish authorities on Friday finally agreed to question Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Assange has been exiled there since 2012 in order to fight extradition to Sweden as well as the U.S. where he is wanted for leaking millions of classified diplomatic cables.
According to BBC News, Swedish authorities have long refused to meet with Assange in London, fearing that meeting on Assange’s home turf might somehow compromise the investigation. But officials are changing their position as the statute of limitations deadline draws near. In Sweden, the statute of limitations for sexual assault is five years and ten years in the case of rape, according to Agence-France Presse.
“My view has always been that to perform an interview with him at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London would lower the quality of the interview, and that he would need to be present in Sweden in any case should there be a trial in the future,” said Marianne Ny, Sweden’s director of public prosecutions. “This assessment remains unchanged. Now that time is of the essence, I have viewed it therefore necessary to accept such deficiencies to the investigation.”
Lawyers for Assange considered this a victory. Their client has always maintained his innocence in the face of allegations that the he engaged in non-consensual sexual activity with two women in Sweden back in 2010. Assange and his supporters insists these allegations are politically motivated retribution for his leaking of government secrets. Assange insists that his reason for fighting extradition to Sweden is simply to avoid being extradited from there to the U.S. where he could face charges under the Espionage Act.
“We welcome and see it also as a big victory … for Julian Assange that what we have demanded is finally going to happen,” said Assange’s lawyer, Per Samuelson, according to NBC News.
Photo by New Media Days/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)