Sweden’s Director of Public Prosecutions Eva-Marie Persson has announced that the investigation into allegations of rape by whistleblower and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been reopened.
“I have taken the decision to reopen the preliminary investigation,” Persson told reporters at a press conference on Monday, confirming her office’s decision.
“As Mr Assange is currently incarcerated in the UK the circumstances now allow him to be extradited to Sweden on a rape warrant,” she added.
The rape charges were leveled against Assange in a case which began almost a decade ago, before he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012. He has repeatedly denied the allegations.
The statute of limitations expired on part of one charge in Sweden’s overall case against Assange, however, the time limit in respect of a rape allegation by one of the women does not expire until 2020.
The case was put on ice in 2017 as prosecutors “didn’t see any possibilities to advance the investigation forward” while Assange was in political exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy. However, his recent arrest provided investigators with the option of reopening their inquiries.
Meanwhile, Assange has already been sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for skipping bail in the UK in 2012. However, the US is also seeking his extradition on charges that he conspired with Chelsea Manning to hack a Pentagon computer and steal state secrets.
Assange potentially faces the death penalty if convicted. Persson said that it is up to UK authorities whether the Swedish or US extradition requests take priority.
WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, said the Swedish investigation gives Assange an opportunity to clear his name.
He said that “there has been considerable political pressure on Sweden to reopen their investigation, but there has always been political pressure surrounding this case.”
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