An investigation into a rape allegation against Julian Assange is to be reopened as prosecutors say there is “probable cause” of an offence.
Swedish prosecutors will begin looking again at the case against Assange, who is currently in Belmarsh Prison serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail, and will seek his extradition from the UK.
Assange was accused of rape and sexual assault against two women in 2010.
However, the statute of limitations expired on one of those allegations in 2015, while he was living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, and the Swedish prosecutor dropped the rape investigation in 2017.
At the time, Sweden said the investigation could be reopened, and it has now been confirmed prosecutors will do so in light of a change of circumstances.
The rape investigation was only closed in 2017 because Assange was living in the Ecuadorian embassy and so the arrest warrant could not be used, nor could the investigation go any further.
However, since Ecuador stopped protecting him last month and he was arrested, the European Arrest Warrant can be issued and Assange may face extradition.
Speaking through a translator, Sweden’s deputy director of prosecutions Eva-Marie Persson said: “Due to these developments and due to the fact that Julian Assange has been deprived of liberty in the UK the counsel representing the group party has presented the request to reopen the preliminary investigation concerning rape and to continue the investigation of the case.
“After reviewing the preliminary investigation in its current state my assessment is that there is still probable cause to suspect that Julian Assange committed rape.
“Provided that Julian Assange will be detained in his absence I will proceed to issue an European Arrest Warrant requesting for him to be extradited to Sweden after serving his sentence in the UK.”
The lawyer for Assange’s accuser said it was “positive news”.
WikiLeaks, which was founded by Assange, registered its dismay at the decision while Assange’s lawyer said he was “surprised” by the news.
Per E. Samuelsen, Assange’s lawyer, said: “It’s embarrassing for Sweden to reopen the investigation.
“He has always wanted to help solve this Swedish issue, his big predicament in life is that he risks being extradited to the United States because of his journalistic work.”
Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, 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.
“Recall that it was initially dropped in 2010 when a prosecutor concluded that ‘no crime at all’ had occurred. It was reopened as WikiLeaks prepared to publish the Iraq War Logs.
“This case has been mishandled throughout.
“Assange was always willing to answer any questions from the Swedish authorities and repeatedly offered to do so, over six years. The widespread media assertion that Assange ‘evaded’ Swedish questioning is false.
“This investigation has been dropped before and its reopening will give Julian a chance to clear his name.”
Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer representing Assange’s accuser, said they both thought the decision to reopen the case was “very gratifying”, adding: “I expect this will result in a criminal charge”.
She said: “We, on the side representing the aggrieved party, believe that the prosecutor’s decision is clear. It signals something important and that is that everyone is equal before of the law.
“Nobody stands above the law, even if your name is Julian Assange and it also signals with clearly and forcefully that the Swedish justice system will not allow itself to be influenced by neither media nor political pressure.”