Sweden still waiting for Assange interview date

Swedish prosecutors said Wednesday they have yet to hear from Ecuador about a date when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be interviewed regarding a suspected rape in 2010, an allegation he denies.

The Australian national has been holed up inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012. He fled there after he lost a legal battle in Britain against extradition to Sweden.

Ecuador last month said it would allow Assange to be questioned inside their embassy in London, but has requested that an Ecuadorean prosecutor conduct the interview. 

Swedish prosecutors have sent questions to Quito and have been forced to "accept the circumstances," Director of Public Prosecutions Marianne Ny told reporters at police headquarters in Stockholm.

"We long aimed for our investigator to conduct the interview [with Assange] but since such a long time has gone, the only option is to accept that this will not take place," Ny said.

Ny said she hoped that a Swedish prosecutor and a police investigator familiar with the case would be allowed to sit in during the interview.

Last year, Sweden and Ecuador adopted a legal pact to offer "legal assistance" in criminal cases.

Swedish prosecutors long argued there was no value in questioning Assange in London since a trial would most likely have to take place in Sweden.

Three other cases of alleged sexual assault against Assange were dropped a year ago due to a Swedish statute of limitations.

Ny on Wednesday defended previous decisions not to attempt to interview Assange at the embassy or by telephone, citing such circumstances would result in a "lower quality" of the interview material.

Ecuador granted Assange asylum after he said he feared extradition to the United States, where he is wanted in connection to WikiLeaks' publication of top secret diplomatic cables.

Swedish broadcaster SVT was late Wednesday to air a programme about the Assange case, but Ny rejected suggestions the press conference was prompted by the programme that contains criticism of her.

In a clip released by SVT's investigative programme Uppdrag Granskning, Assange declined to comment much on the case.

"You’re asking me to go into the details of the case,” he said. “The correct place to do that is in a formal statement to the Swedish prosecutor. She’s been avoiding that for six years. I don’t think Swedish television is the right place.”

One of Assange's attorneys, Per E Samuelson, told Swedish Radio that the SVT programme supported their contention that Assange "faces a concrete risk if he leaves the embassy. It would expose him to the risk to be extradited to the US from Sweden or Britain," he said.

"WikiLeaks are suspected of data hacking or assisting that. That's a crime Swedish courts can't reject under a treaty we have with the US," he added.

Ny said that if Assange were to end up in Sweden and the US were to request his extradition, the decision would ultimately rest with the Swedish government. Further, Britain would also have to give approval, she said.

A Swedish appellate court was Friday to rule on Assange's latest attempt to lift the arrest warrant.

Last update: Wed, 07/09/2016 - 17:39
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