Swedish Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Eva-Marie Persson announced on Monday that the country will reopen the outstanding sexual assault case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and that she had requested a district court in the Swedish city of Uppsala to issue a warrant for his arrest now that he is out of the Ecuadorian Embassy. Persson said that Sweden will be requesting Assange’s extradition after he serves his 50-week-long sentence in a British prison.
“I have requested the district court to arrest Assange in absentia on suspicions of rape. If the court rules to arrest him, I will issue a European arrest warrant that will imply his extradition to Sweden,” Persson said, as quoted in the press release of the Swedish Prosecution Authority.
The warrant, if granted, would be the first stage in a process to extradite Assange from the UK.
The prosecutor claimed that the original case was closed in May 2017 not due to a lack of evidence, but due to the inability to investigate the case and prosecute Assange properly because of his lengthy asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.
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“There is still a probable cause to suspect that Assange committed a rape […] Now that he has left Ecuador’s Embassy, the conditions in the case have changed and I am of the opinion that the conditions are in place once again to pursue the case”, Persson said.
The original criminal case against Assange was opened in 2010 during an extended stay in Stockholm on WikiLeaks business, after two female friends who who’d each had consensual sex with him multiple times went together to visit a local police station to seek an inquiry. One of the women wanted to look into compelling Assange to take a STD test, after she grew concerned about him not using a condom.
The authorities misunderstood the intention of the women’s visit and filed sexual assault charges against Assange, promptly issuing a warrant for his request. Reportedly, one of the women became so distraught upon hearing this news that she burst into tears and refused to continue the questioning, immediately demanding to retract her statement.
Assange reported to the station days later, where he was questioned by the police and subsequently released, told by authorities that he was free to leave the country. He departed for London a few days later, with the understanding that the matter had been straightened out and resolved.
However, shortly after arriving in the UK, an INTERPOL Red Notice was issued requesting his arrest and extradition to Sweden for questioning regarding the same rape allegations — a highly unusual abuse of a type of warrant usually reserved for war criminals and international fugitives. He was arrested in London later that year and released on bail.
In 2012, Assange took refuge in London’s Ecuadorian embassy — skipping his UK bail for which he is currently serving a 50-week sentence — fearing extradition to the US over WikiLeaks’ activities after being handed over to Sweden.
The Swedish case was dropped five years later in 2017, after investigators finally traveled to London to interview Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy, something he had been offering the Swedes from the start. Some of the charges were dropped in 2015 due to the statute of limitations on them expiring.
On April 11, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno revoked Assange’s asylum status and invited the UK police inside the embassy to arrest him. A London court then sentenced him to 50 weeks in prison on May 1st for breaching his bail conditions in 2012, when he first entered the embassy. Now, since Assange’s arrest in 2019, Sweden has once again raised the issue of the unresolved rape case.