Swedish prosecutors are reopening an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a month after he was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Speaking 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" and "a new questioning of Assange is required".
Swedish prosecutors originally chose to drop the rape investigation two years ago, saying they felt unable to take the case forward while Assange remained inside the Ecuadorean embassy.
Seven years later, a case of alleged sexual misconduct was dropped when the statute of limitations expired.
"There is a possibility, or risk depending on how you see it, that this is going to take a long time", he said, adding that a United States extradition of Assange would likely rule out him being tried in Sweden due to the statute of limitation.
Two unnamed Swedish women accused Assange of sexual assault following his visit to the country in 2010.
- May 1, 2019: Assange sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching bail conditions in 2012. Assange had been hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy there since 2012 while escaping extradition to Sweden for the sexual assault investigations.
The decision comes just over a month after Assange was arrested at London's Ecuadorian embassy for "failing to surrender to the court" for a previous extradition order to Sweden, and in response to a separate extradition order from USA authorities over one of the biggest compromises of classified information ever.
The inquiry has been revived at the request of the alleged victim's lawyer.
"She is very hopeful about getting restitution and we both hope that justice will win", Elisabeth Massi Fritz said.
Assange's Swedish lawyer, Per Samuelsson, told The New York Times that Sweden's decision is "not proportionate", saying, "He has been sentenced to 50 weeks".
He is also being held on a USA extradition warrant for allegedly hacking into a Pentagon computer in conjunction with former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
Persson told a press conference in Stockholm on Monday that it would be up to British authorities to determine which extradition request-to Sweden or to the USA - would take precedence.
- November 2018: A USA court filing that appears to inadvertently reveal the existence of a sealed criminal case against Assange is discovered by a researcher.
According to United Kingdom law, in the case of competing extradition claims, the decision is left to the country's Home Secretary to determine which petition takes precedence.
Media captionVideo footage shows Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London What is the Swedish investigation about?
Following his removal from those premises by British authorities last month, Persson said that circumstances had changed and investigators would seek a new interview with the 47-year-old computer programmer. His arrest came after Ecuador rescinded Assange's asylum claim due to "repeated violations to global conventions and daily life".
Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said the "case has been mishandled throughout".