In what seems like an obvious move, Swedish prosecutors agreed late Thursday to interview Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Mr Assange has long welcomed their questioning yet refused to leave his current residence, the Ecuadorian embassy, for fear of being extradited to one of the many countries looking to imprison him for his role in leaking secrets.
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors want to question him about strange 2010 allegations that he ‘raped’ one woman and sexually molested another. Mr Assange has not been charged in either incident, raising further questions as to the motives behind the extradition request.
While the allegations carry a salacious connotation, in Sweden they have very different legal meanings than here in the States. The allegations relate to not using a condom while having sex, a far more minor offense than the headline charges would seem to indicate. It would also be trivially easy to construct such fake allegations.
According to Assange’s lawyer, Thomas Olsson, Swedish prosecutors will now have to reach out to British and Ecuadorian authorities to request permission to conduct the interview at the embassy.
The prosecutors previously balked at coming to Britain to question Assange, raising serious questions as to their motives in the matter. It would seem like a straightforward solution to simply travel to London and conduct the interview there.
The reason for the sudden change of heart is that some of the alleged crimes will be subject to a statute of limitations in August 2015, according to a statement from Marianne Ny, the director of public prosecutions.
Ny attempted to explained the strange logic behind the Swedish authorities’ change of approach in her statement.
“My view has always been that to perform an interview with him at the Ecuadorian embassy in London would lower the quality of the interview, and that he would need to be present in Sweden in any case should there be a trial in the future,” Ny said.
“This assessment remains unchanged. Now that time is of the essence, I have viewed it therefore necessary to accept such deficiencies to the investigation and likewise take the risk that the interview does not move the case forward, particularly as there are no other measures on offer without Assange being present in Sweden.”
The Australian national has not been charged and denies the claims. Assange has said he fears Sweden would extradite him to the United States, where he could face the death penalty if he is charged and convicted of publishing government secrets through WikiLeaks.
Ecuador granted Assange political asylum in 2012.