Swedish prosecutors are reopening an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Speaking Monday at a news conference in Stockholm, Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecutions, said there is “still a probable cause to suspect that Assange committed rape.” In her assessment, she said, “a new questioning of Assange is required.”
Last month, Assange was arrested by British police at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London and later sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail.
He fled to the embassy in 2012 after Sweden requested his extradition in a case involving sexual assault allegations, which Assange denies.
Sweden discontinued the investigation in 2017 because authorities said they were unable to advance the case while Assange was holed up at the embassy.
The Swedish investigation has been reopened at the request of the alleged victim.
Earlier this month, Assange told a British court that he would not consent to being extradited to the United States, where he is wanted on a charge of conspiring with a former Army intelligence analyst, now known as Chelsea Manning, to hack a Defense Department computer to obtain classified files.
If both countries seek to extradite Assange, it will be up to British officials to decide which request, if any, to prioritize.
Persson said that following Assange’s arrest last month in London, “the circumstances in this case have changed.”
She said that according to information received from British authorities, Assange will “serve 25 weeks of his sentence before he can be released.”
She added: “I am well conscious of the truth that an extradition manner is ongoing in the U.K. and that he may want to be extradited to the U.S. In the tournament of a war between a European arrest warrant and a request for extradition from the U.S., U.K. authorities will determine on the order of priority. The effect of this process is not possible to predict.”
Seven years later, a case of alleged sexual misconduct was once dropped when the statute of boundaries expired. That left a rape allegation, which could not be pursued while Assange was living at the embassy. The statute of obstacles on that case expires in August 2020.
Following a trip to Stockholm in August 2010, Assange was accused of sexual misconduct by two Swedish women. Assange denied the claims, saying the sex was consensual. In 2015, Swedish prosecutors dropped their probe into some of the allegations — sexual molestation and unlawful coercion — because of the statue of limitations had expired, but they continued their investigation into an allegation of rape.
WikiLeaks editor in chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said the decision to reopen the case against Assange “will give Julian a chance to clear his name.”
He said in a statement that Persson had been under “intense political pressure” to reopen the case, and criticized authorities for “mishandling” it from the start.