WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange will finally face questions from Swedish police and prosecutors related to his alleged rape of two women in Stockholm, Sweden in 2010. According to ABC Australia, two women, known as Miss A and Miss W, filed suit against Assange, but by the time that a Swedish court ruled that he should be detained for questioning, he had already (with the permission of Swedish authorities) returned to London. Miss A and Miss W separately alleged that what began as consensual sex with Assange turned non-consensual after he refused to wear a condom; Assange, who hasn’t been charged, denies the allegations – several of which had already expired due to the statue of limitations.
According to Assange’s legal team, as well as (according to ITV) Ecuador’s foreign minister, Guillaume Long, Assange has always made himself available for interview at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been granted political asylum since August 2012.
“We are pleased that the Swedish authorities will finally interview Mr Assange in our embassy in London.”
“This is something that Ecuador has been inviting the Swedish prosecutors to do ever since we granted asylum to Mr Assange in 2012.”
“There was no need for the Swedish authorities to delay for over 1,000 days before agreeing to carry out this interview, given that the Swedish authorities regularly question people in Britain and received permission to do so on more than 40 occasions in recent years.”
“Ecuador has never sought to stand in the way of any legal process in Sweden.”
Sweden issued an international arrest warrant for Assange in December 2010. Assange voluntarily turned himself into the London police; he was granted bail after high-profile supporters agreed that they would put up the money; £240,000 (about $300,000 USD today). A British court later ruled in 2011 that he should be extradited to Sweden, and although his lawyers fought the decision, citing concerns that he would then be extradited to the United States on an espionage charge, the extradition request was upheld by the British Supreme Court in May 2012; Assange was given two weeks to challenge the decision.
He sought political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy shortly thereafter, where he has remained ever since.
So why has it taken them so long to interview him?
Originally, according to Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny, she was not legally allowed to interview anyone by video or in the London embassy; she later backtracked this and admitted that it was legally possible, but that doing so would “would lower the quality of the interview.” In all likelihood, although nobody knows for sure, Swedish officials were still hoping that they would have a chance to extradite and imprison Assange before beginning the process.
In March 2015, Ny finally relented and indicated her willingness to interview Assange in London – but due to bureaucratic and diplomatic concerns, the interview was delayed another year and a half. The date was finally set for October 17, 2016, but at the request of Assange’s legal team (likely for reasons to do with the election), was rescheduled to November 14.
Tomorrow, Sweden’s chief prosecutor, Ingrid Isgren, and a police investigator will interview Julian Assange – in a sense. They’ll be asking their questions through an Ecuadorian prosecutor; perhaps Ny was not so wrong when she suggested that the interview quality would not be quite the same. A report on the interview will be forwarded to Swedish prosecutors, who will decide whether to move forward with the investigation or not.
Ny added in a statement that the results of the interview would not be made public.
“As the investigation is ongoing, it is subject to confidentiality. This confidentiality also applies according to Ecuadorian legislation for the investigative measures conducted at the embassy.”
“Therefore, the prosecutors cannot provide information concerning details of the investigation after the interview.”
[Featured Image by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]