LONDON — Swedish prosecutors are reopening an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Speaking Monday at a news conference in Stockholm, Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecutions, said there is “still a probable cause to suspect that Assange committed rape.” In her assessment, she said, “a new questioning of Assange is required.”
Last month, Assange was arrested by British police at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London and later sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail.
He fled to the embassy in 2012 after Sweden requested his extradition in a case involving sexual assault allegations, which Assange denies.
Sweden discontinued the investigation in 2017 because authorities said they were unable to advance the case while Assange was holed up at the embassy.
The Swedish investigation has been reopened at the request of the alleged victim.
Earlier this month, Assange told a British court that he would not consent to being extradited to the United States, where he is wanted on a charge of conspiring with a former Army intelligence analyst, now known as Chelsea Manning, to hack a Defense Department computer to obtain classified files.
If both countries seek to extradite Assange, it will be up to British officials to decide which request, if any, to prioritize.
Persson said that following Assange’s arrest last month in London, “the circumstances in this case have changed.”
She said that according to information received from British authorities, Assange will “serve 25 weeks of his sentence before he can be released.”
She added: “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.”
Swedish prosecutors argued Monday that time is of essence in their case because the statute of limitations in the rape case expires in August 2020.
Following a trip to Stockholm in August 2010, Assange was accused of sexual misconduct by two Swedish women. Assange denied the claims, saying the sex was consensual. In 2015, Swedish prosecutors dropped their probe into some of the allegations — sexual molestation and unlawful coercion — because of the statue of limitations had expired, but they continued their investigation into an allegation of rape.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor in chief, said that reopening the case would give Assange a chance to clear his name.
“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,” he said in a statement. “This investigation has been dropped before and its reopening will give Julian a chance to clear his name.”
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.