WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has spent nearly three years in an Ecuadorian embassy in London in an effort to avoid both charges from the United States regarding the dissemination of classified information as well as a nearly five-year investigation that alleges Assange committed sex crimes in Sweden. With the statue of limitations in the latter case set to expire this August, Swedish prosecutors hope to travel to London to interview Assange in the near future in a last-ditch effort to decide whether to pursue charges.
“My view has always been that to perform an interview with him at the Ecuadorean 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,” Lead prosecutor Marianne Ny said in a statement (via The Hollywood Reporter). “Now that time is of the essence, I have viewed it therefore necessary to accept such deficiencies in the investigation and likewise take the risk that the interview does not move the case forward.”
Ny asked permission from both Assange’s legal team and the Ecuadorian embassy to interview the WikiLeaks founder, as well as requesting a DNA sample. Per Samuelson, one of Assange’s defense attorneys, told The Associated Press, “This is something we’ve demanded for over four years. Julian Assange wants to be interviewed so he can be exonerated.”
In a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone‘s Michael Hastings, Assange couldn’t discuss the ongoing investigation, but briefly opened up about the 2010 allegations that he had sexually molested two women in Sweden. “It is very difficult, being in the position where you can’t tell your version of events,” Assange said. “People can read the allegations for themselves. They’re not correct, but even as stated, they are absurd. What the prosecution successfully managed to do is use the word ‘rape.’ Although I’ve not been charged – and technically what they are investigating is called ‘minor rape,’ a Swedish concept – that hasn’t stopped our opponents from constantly referring to ‘rape charges,’ which is false.”
When asked by Hastings why he didn’t just deny the allegations and face his accusations against him head-on in Sweden, Assange replied, “I have no faith in the Swedish justice system being just. The International Prison Chaplains Association says that Swedish prisons are the worst prisons in Europe… In addition, if you criticize matters, such as that Swedes have the worst prison system in all of Europe, then it would be the worse for you, because the Swedish justice system will take its revenge.”
Assange also dismissed the widely held belief that the Swedish charges were planted by the CIA as a means of discrediting him, and in Ny’s comments Friday, she also reiterated that the U.S. is not involved with the Swedish investigation.
Following Ny’s decision to venture to London to talk with Assange, WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said, “I think it’s absolutely outrageous that it took the Swedish prosecutor four-and-a-half years to come to this conclusion after maintaining that she couldn’t come to London because it would be illegal to do so. Obviously that was a bogus argument.”
Even if Assange is exonerated of the charges, it’s still unlikely the WikiLeaks proprietor will be able to return to Sweden because there is nothing in place to prevent Sweden from extraditing him to the United States, where he’d likely face countless charges in the wake of Cablegate and the Chelsea Manning trial.
In the Rolling Stone interview, Assange says he asked a “Western intelligence source” whether he’d ever be able to return to his native Australia and freely move around the globe. “He told me I was fucked,” Assange said.