If he is not extradited by 2020 to the United States, Julian Assange could be tried for rape charges in Sweden.
he Swedish court announced Monday, May 13, 2019 the reopening of the investigation of rape against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange , hoping to see him stand trial before the prescription of the crime in 2020 if he is not extradited by there to the United States .
The announcement of the prosecutor’s office in Stockholm relaunch a judicial soap opera that has lasted for almost a decade, during which Julian Assange and his supporters have not stopped denouncing a maneuver intended to extradite him to the United States to respond leaks of US secret documents by WikiLeaks.
It is officially to avoid this extradition that the Australian had taken refuge in 2012 at the Embassy of Ecuador in London. In his absence, and unable to advance the investigation, the Swedish justice had abandoned the prosecution in May 2017.
Towards a European arrest warrant
But her spectacular arrest on April 11 in London had revived the hope of the plaintiff and her lawyer to see him turned over to Sweden for a trial before the prescription expires in August 2020.
“I decided today to reopen the investigation,” said Eva-Marie Persson, deputy prosecutor, at a press conference.
“Julian Assange having left the Ecuadorian embassy, circumstances are ripe to demand his surrender (to Sweden) under a European arrest warrant, which was not the case before 11th April.”
The prosecution will issue as soon as possible a European arrest warrant against Mr Assange.
“I am totally innocent”
Thirty years old at the material time, the complainant had met her alleged attacker at a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm. She accuses him of having sex on the night of August 16 to 17, while she slept without a condom, when she repeatedly denied him any unprotected sex.
Julian Assange has always maintained that she was consenting and agreed not to use a condom.
The Australian had been questioned on August 31, 2010 by the Swedish police in Stockholm about a sexual assault complaint filed by a first young woman for alleged facts committed on August 13. This procedure was hit by the prescription in 2015.
On the other hand, he had never been heard about another young woman’s rape complaint until she was heard at the Ecuadorian Embassy in November 2016 by an Ecuadorian prosecutor in the presence of a Swedish investigating magistrate.
“I am totally innocent,” he wrote in a message published with the transcript of his statements to the Ecuadorian prosecutor.
His Swedish lawyer, Per E Samuelson, said on Monday that Sweden was “ridiculing” by relaunching “10-year-old” lawsuits. “I’m not in the least worried about the issue of guilt,” he said on television.
“A chance to exonerate yourself”
Faced with the impossibility of obtaining a court appearance, the Swedish public prosecutor’s office had decided to classify the investigation in 2017. This decision “was not based on a lack of evidence, but on the circumstances which hindered the investigation, “said Persson.
WikiLeaks reaffirmed Monday that Julian Assange had fled to the Embassy of Ecuador in London “to avoid extradition to the United States, not to avoid extradition to Sweden.”
The relaunch of the prosecution “will offer him the chance to exculpate himself,” reacted WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hranfsson in a statement.
Statement regarding the reopening of a preliminary investigation in Sweden.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 13, 2019
For the complainant’s lawyer, the Swedish court’s decision “sends a strong signal”. “No one is above the law, not even when one is called Julian Assange,” Elisabeth Massi Fritz told reporters in Stockholm.
47-year-old Julian Assange is charged by US criminal conspiracy justice for “hacking” for helping former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning obtain a password and gain access to thousands of classified secret-defense documents.
He refuses to be extradited to the United States, where according to the American justice representative, he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The process of examining the request for extradition to the United States is proceeding.
However, according to the Swedish public prosecutor’s office, in “cases of competition between a European arrest warrant and an American extradition request, it is the British authorities who set the order of priority”.
Meanwhile, Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for violating his bail conditions by a British court.