Swedish prosecutors will finally question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on suspicion of rape, Ecuador has announced.
Assange has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy for over four years, in order to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning. He is convinced that the Swedes would hand him over to the Americans to face charges over the activities of WikiLeaks.
The Australian originally faced accusations over sexual molestation and coercion, but the statute of limitations on these allegations led to their investigation being dropped last year. This leaves one allegation of rape.
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A United Nations panel said in February that Assange was being unlawfully detained in the Ecuadorian embassy, and ought to be released immediately with compensation.
Legal experts in the U.K. tend to take a different view, saying he is simply avoiding arrest, and in May a Swedish court upheld its arrest warrant. Assange this week appealed to the Swedish courts, saying the authorities should comply with the U.N. panel’s recommendation.
On Thursday, Ecuador said the Swedes will interview Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy. The date for the meeting will be established “in the coming weeks.”
Sweden’s prosecutors asked to question Assange inside the embassy last year and he consented, but the meeting was impossible as Sweden and Ecuador had not at the time agreed a legal assistance treaty. They struck this agreement in December last year, after which the prosecutors formally issued their request.
Karin Rosander, a spokesperson for the Swedish prosecutor’s office, told Fortune that the office has now received a letter from Ecuador agreeing to the interview. “From what I understand, in a couple of weeks they will decide the circumstances for the interview,” she said.
The prosecutors will only be able to decide after interviewing Assange whether they want to launch a full prosecution against him—if this happens, he would at that point be entitled to see all the investigation material, in order to build up his defense.
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From his asylum down in the kitten-equipped basement of the Knightsbridge embassy—just across the road from Harrods—Assange has been hugely active in recent months.
Not only has WikiLeaks published documents showing how the U.S. National Security Agency spied on world leaders, but it has also been on something of a crusade to expose the inner workings of the U.S. Democratic National Committee (DNC), releasing hacked emails and voicemails. It this week offered a reward for information about the recent murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich in Washington, D.C.
WikiLeaks’ lack of curation—these days it usually just publishes files without any redaction—has earned it criticism from NSA leaker Edward Snowden.