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Tuesday, 14 May 2019 06:03

Sweden reopens Assange rape probe, seeks his extradition

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Sweden reopens Assange rape probe, seeks his extradition Courtesy YouTube

Sweden has said it will seek to extradite WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange from the UK to face a reopened investigation into a rape allegation against him.

Monday's announcement means that the UK will now have to decide whether to send Assange to Sweden or the US after he serves a 50-week jail term imposed for skipping bail in 2012. He took refuge in the Ecuador embassy in London after that, having been granted asylum by that country.

The WikiLeaks founder was arrested by British police on 11 April after Ecuador withdrew its asylum and appeared in court shortly thereafter. He was found guilty of skipping bail and remanded to custody.

At the time he fled into the Ecuador embassy, Assange was wanted in Sweden for questioning on the rape allegations. He has always maintained that he accepted the asylum offer because he feared the US would try to extradite him from Sweden to face charges over the release of thousands of documents relating to the US invasion of Iraq and the Afghanistan operation.

In May 2017, Sweden dropped the rape probe against Assange, and revoked the arrest warrant that existed at the time.

“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,” Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief said in a statement. “Its reopening will give Julian a chance to clear his name."

Sweden's deputy director of public prosecution Eva-Marie Persson said in a statement: "On account of Julian Assange leaving the Ecuadorian embassy, the circumstances in this case have changed. I take the view that there exists the possibility to take the case forward. Julian Assange has been convicted of a crime in the UK and will serve 25 weeks of his sentence before he can be released, according to information from UK authorities.

"I am well aware of the fact that an extradition process is ongoing in the UK and that he could be extradited to the US. In the event of a conflict between a European Arrest Warrant and a request for extradition from the US, UK authorities will decide on the order of priority. The outcome of this process is impossible to predict. However, in my view the Swedish case can proceed concurrently with the proceedings in the UK."

The Assange saga began when he visited Sweden in August 2010 to attend a conference at which he was scheduled to give a talk. During that visit, he had sex with two women whom he met. The pair filed rape and molestation complaints against him later, claims that he denied.

He was questioned by Swedish authorities and cleared of all accusations. He could have left the country then and there but stayed for a while, in case the authorities decided to question him again.

Interpol issued a Red Notice for his arrest on 20 November 2010. On 27 November, Assange surrendered to authorities and appeared before a Westminster judge. Bail was granted to him in December after his backers provided £240,000 in cash and sureties.

Then began a protracted period of legal back and forth that went on until June 2012, when Swedish prosecutors sought his extradition.

Assange's lawyers, among them the world-renowned Australian Geoffrey Robertson, replied that if he agreed to the extradition request, then he could be flown to the US from there.

On 19 June 2012, he jumped bail and took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, seeking asylum in the South American country. British police surrounded the building and blocked any chance of his leaving.

Ecuador granted him asylum in August 2012. He stayed there until 11 April this year, when the asylum was withdrawn making his arrest possible.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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