Swedish prosecutors reopen Julian Assange rape case investigation

Swedish prosecutors are reopening an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a month after he was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecutions announced the decision at a news conference in Stockholm on Monday morning.

Ms Persson said "there is still a probable cause to suspect that Assange committed a rape" and "a new questioning of Assange is required."

She added the circumstances had changes following Assange's arrest last month when he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had lived for almost seven years.

A European arrest warrant will be issued for Assange.

Prosecutors said the circumstances had changed following Assange's arrest from the Ecuadorian embassy. Credit: PA

Prosecutors dropped the case against Assange in 2017 because they were unable to proceed while he remained inside the embassy.

He had faced investigation for a second sex-related allegation in Sweden, which was dropped in 2017 because the statute of limitations had expired.

The statue of limitations in the rape case expires in August 2020.

The 47-year-old has avoided extradition to Sweden for seven years after seeking refuge inside the Ecuadorian embassy.

Swedish prosecutors filed preliminary charges against Assange after he visited the country in 2010.

The rape case was opened following complaints from two Swedish women who said they were the victims of sex crimes committed by Assange.

He has denied the allegations, asserting that they were politically motivated and the sex was consensual.

The WikiLeaks founder had stayed at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for several years. Credit: PA

A police officer who heard the women’s accounts decided there was reason to suspect they were victims of sex crimes and handed the case to a prosecutor.

Assange left Sweden for Britain in September 2010.

In November that year, a Stockholm court approved a request to detain him for questioning.

The Australian took refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was arrested by UK police on April 11 after Ecuador revoked his political asylum, accusing him of everything from meddling in the nation’s foreign affairs to poor hygiene.

Assange is currently in London’s Belmarsh Prison serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail in 2012.

Assange had been at the Ecuadorian embassy since June 2012, but was arrested in April. Credit: PA

Where will Assange be extradited?

The UK faces a decision on whether to extradite Assange to the Scandinavian country or the United States.

Assange is wanted separately for allegedly hacking into a Pentagon computer.

If there are competing extradition requests, Home Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to have the final say over which claim takes priority.

On making the decision, the following must be taken into account:

  • The relative seriousness of the offences.

  • The place where each offence was committed.

  • The date when each request was issued / received.

  • Whether the person is accused or convicted of each offence.

The Home Secretary's decision is not limited to these factors, but they must be taken into account.