Stockholm, May 13 : Swedish prosecutors on Monday reopened investigation into the rape allegation against WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, currently lodged at a high-security jail in the UK.
Sweden’s Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Eva-Marie Persson announced the decision at a press conference here saying, “I have today taken the decision to reopen the preliminary investigation,” the Guardian reported
Prosecutors dropped the investigation in 2017 because they were unable to proceed while Assange stayed put at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The investigation could be reopened if the situation changed, they had said at that time.
Assange, 47, was removed from the embassy last month after seven years as the Ecuadorian government withdrew his asylum protection, and was arrested for breach of bail conditions.
A lawyer for one of the women involved in the Swedish allegations subsequently asked for resumption of the investigation. Assange had also faced investigation for a second sex-related allegation, which was dropped in 2015 because time had run out.
He has denied both allegations.
Immediately after his arrest in April, the US authorities requested for his extradition in a case relating to a WikiLeaks’ release of sensitive military and diplomatic documents.
In the US, he faces charges of conspiring with a former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to download classified data. The charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Assange is being held at the Belmarsh high-security prison in London after being sentenced to 50 weeks for a bail violation, the Guardian said.
He appeared at the Westminster magistrates court on May 2 via video link and said he did not consent to be extradited to the US. The court heard that the extradition process would take “many months”. The case was adjourned until May 30.
The Swedish allegations date to 2010. Assange unsuccessfully fought through the British courts to get the extradition order and preliminary investigation dropped. Assange feared that the Swedish authorities would hand him over to the US to face prosecution in the WikiLeaks case, his lawyers said.
On the reopening of the Swedish investigation, WikiLeaks said it would give Assange a chance to clear his name. “Since Assange was arrested on April 11, 2019, there has been considerable political pressure on Sweden to reopen investigations, but there has always been political pressure surrounding this case,” Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, said in a statement.
“Its reopening will give Julian a chance to clear his name,” Hrafnsson said.