Swedish prosecutors have reopened a rape case directed at Julian Assange a month after his stay at London’s Ecuadorian Embassy was terminated following calls for him to be extradited to the U.S over computer hacking allegations.
The WikiLeaks founder – who denies the allegations – has avoided extradition for seven years by taking refuge at an embassy since 2012 and now faces investigation after the inquiry was reopened at the request of the alleged victim’s lawyer.
He is currently serving 50 weeks at Belmarsh prison in London for breaching his bail conditions in 2012 and faces a possible five further years in the US on charges of conspiring to hack into US government computer accounts.
The decision was announced at a press conference on Monday by Eva-Marie Persson, the deputy director of public prosecutions, who said she would reopen the “preliminary investigation”.
“After reviewing the preliminary investigation carried out so far, I find that there still exist grounds for Julian Assange to be suspected on probable cause of the charge of rape.”
She added that Assange would be extradited to Sweden for police to conduct interviews, saying: “It is my assessment that a new questioning of Assange is required.”
And now that Sweden has made their decision formal on reopening the case, it seems likely the UK will conform with the request for him to extradited, with Theresa May, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt already stating the arrest of Assange shows no-one is “above the law”.
It is up to the British authorities to decide whether the Swedish or US extradition will be addressed first, however, it is thought the rape investigation will take priority due to the alleged crime being committed prior to the alleged US offences.
The US extradition request comes after the Department for Justice accused Assange of conspiring to download top secret databases with a former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who provided classified documents to the 47-year-old and was subsequently convicted in 2013.
Formerly known as Bradley Manning, she was found to have leaked 700,000 military and State Department documents to WikiLeaks but was released in 2017 having served only seven years of her 35-year sentence – a decision pursued by President Barack Obama.
Assange could face a maximum of five years in the US for the alleged offences committed.
A former head of extradition at the Crown Prosecution Service, Nick Vamos, told Reuters news agency that the UK extradition proceedings should take no more than 18 months.