Swedish prosecutors have asked for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s approval to question him in London where he is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in a possible breakthrough in a case that has been at an impasse for years, prosecutors said.
One of Assange’s lawyers said he welcomed the request but noted concern the process could take time given that approval was also needed from British and Ecuadorian authorities.
Sweden wants to question him on allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he denies. Prosecutors said they were also asking to conduct a DNA test of Assange, who has been stuck inside the South American country’s London embassy since June 2012 to avoid a British extradition to Sweden.
A Swedish appeals court late last year upheld a detention order but said prosecutors had not made enough effort, noting the “failure of the prosecutors to examine alternative avenues is not in line with their obligation”.
The prosecution had long refused to go to London for the questioning and said the main reason it had changed its mind was that a number of the crimes Assange was suspected of would be subject to statutes of limitation in August.
Prosecutor Marianne Ny said she still believed that questioning him at the embassy would lower the quality of the interview and that he would need to be present in Sweden should the case come to a trial.
“Now that time is of the essence, I have viewed it therefore necessary to accept such deficiencies to the investigation,” she said in a statement.
Sweden`s Supreme Court is currently weighing whether to try the request from Assange to have the warrant for his arrest lifted, and has asked the prosecutor to submit an opinion on the matter before a decision can be taken.
The Australian says he fears that if Britain extradited him to Sweden he would then be extradited to the United States where he could be tried for one of the largest information leaks in US history.
Assange was initially taken into custody in London but freed on bail, later claiming political asylum in Ecuador`s embassy.