NEWS
05/13/2019 06:57 EDT | Updated 05/13/2019 07:07 EDT

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Co-Founder, To Face Reopened Rape Investigation

"The circumstances in this case have changed," Sweden’s deputy director of prosecutions says.

Julian Assange will face a revived investigation over a rape allegation in Sweden after a decision by prosecutors to reopen the case.

The WikiLeaks co-founder, who denies the claim, avoided extradition to Sweden by seeking refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in 2012. He was evicted from the embassy last month and sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail conditions.

Speaking at a news conference Monday, Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden's deputy director of prosecutions, said Assange should face a new interview into the allegation.

"On account of Julian Assange leaving the Ecuadorian embassy, the circumstances in this case have changed. I take the view that there exists the possibility to take the case forward," she said.

dpa
Julian Assange was detained by British police this month after seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

She added: "Julian Assange has been convicted of a crime in the U.K. and will serve 25 weeks of his sentence before he can be released, according to information from U.K. authorities.

"I am well aware of the fact that an extradition process is ongoing in the U.K. and that he could be extradited to the U.S.

"In the event of a conflict between a European Arrest Warrant and a request for extradition from the U.S., U.K. authorities will decide on the order of priority. The outcome of this process is impossible to predict.

"However, in my view, the Swedish case can proceed concurrently with the proceedings in the U.K. Reopening the investigation means that a number of investigative measures will take place.

"In my opinion, a new interview with the suspect is required. It may be necessary, with the support of a European Investigation Order, to request an interview with Julian Assange be held in the U.K. Such an interview, however, requires Julian Assange's consent."

The request to restart the investigation came from lawyers representing Assange's alleged victim.

Not the only allegation

Swedish prosecutors dropped the rape investigation in 2017 because they were unable to proceed while he remained inside the embassy.

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

Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks' editor-in-chief, said in a statement that the reopening of the investigation came amid "political pressure" on Sweden.

Hrafnsson said: "Since Julian Assange was arrested on 11 April 2019, there has been considerable political pressure on Sweden to reopen their investigation, but there has always been political pressure surrounding this case,"

"Its reopening will give Julian a chance to clear his name," Hrafnsson added.

The U.S. also wants to extradite Assange, 47, from the U.K. over his alleged role in the release of classified military and diplomatic material through Wikileaks in 2010, but the Swedish decision could complicate the move.