Saturday, June 25

Julian Assange to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors in London



Swedish prosecutors will be allowed to question the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, the South American nation’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, has said.

Assange has been living in the west-London building since seeking refuge in 2012, as he awaited extradition to Sweden to face prosecutors over rape allegations.

Patino told the Ecuadorean radio station Publica that the country was accepting Sweden’s request to interrogate Assange “as long as the sovereignty of the Ecuadoran state and the laws in the constitution are respected”, the Associated Press reported.

He suggested that Swedish authorities could provide their Ecuadoran counterparts with the questions and they could be asked in the presence of a Swedish prosecutor.

Later on Friday, Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for WikiLeaks, told the Guardian that Assange welcomed the “opportunity to deliver his statement to the prosecutor”.

He said: “Julian has been offering his statement to the prosecutor by various means for five years [in total] and for three-and-a-half years since he went into the embassy – whether via videolink or by the prosecutor coming to London.

“Let’s hope [the interview] can be carried out as soon as possible. Julian is very eager to get his point of view into the investigation.”

Assange’s extradition to Sweden was allowed by the British courts in 2012, after a lengthy legal battle. In June that year, the WikiLeaks founder, who was on bail after losing his Supreme Court case – his final legal recourse in Britain against extradition – fled to the small embassy building behind Harrod’s, in London’s Knightsbridge.

He and his supporters feared that the efforts to send him to Sweden were a pretext to his onward extradition to America, where they believed he would be charged over the posting of classified documents on the WikiLeaks website.

He has not been charged by the Swedish authorities and cannot be, under that country’s laws, without a formal interview taking place first.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority said in December last year that it was making a renewed request for permission to interview Assange in London. Permission to do so had been granted by the British authorities in June.

“When all necessary permits and arrangements are ready, the interview will be performed by the supporting prosecutor to the case, chief prosecutor Ingrid Isgren, together with a police investigator,” the Swedish authority said.