WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addresses the media holding a printed report of the judgment by a United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on his case, from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, February 5, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Ecuador, whose embassy in the British capital is sheltering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, has agreed to allow Swedish officials question him over sexual assault charges filed in Sweden.
According to a statement released by Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, the Ecuadoran government has sent a letter to Swedish officials to arrange the “interrogation” with the Swedish prosecutor.
It added that the interrogation would be conducted “at the Embassy of Ecuador to the United Kingdom… in the coming weeks.”
Sweden’s government says the 45-year-old Australian computer programmer, publisher and journalist committed sexual offences against two women in his 2010 visit of the Scandinavian country. Assange has strongly denied the accusation.
Stockholm asked the UK, where Assange was staying at the time, to extradite him to face trial over the charges. The Wikileaks founder exhausted all his legal options in Britain to resist extradition to Sweden, and subsequently sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London as a last resort in June 2012.
He believes the potential extradition to Sweden could be a ploy to then take him to the US, where he is wanted over the release of thousands of classified US documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on his website.
Ecuador has granted Assange asylum due to “fears of political persecution” against him, but he has been unable to leave the embassy building in London because he could then be arrested.
Meanwhile, Assange’s lawyer, Tomas Olsson, said that his client appealed a Stockholm district court’s decision to keep a European arrest warrant against him over the rape charges.
“We have appealed the decision to keep him remanded in custody in absentia,” said Olsson.
Assange argues that he has been effectively detained by the UK, even though he has never been charged with a crime.
On February 5, a United Nations Working Group ruled in a non-binding decision that Assange’s virtual confinement in the Ecuadoran Embassy amounted to arbitrary detention by Sweden and Britain. Both countries angrily disputed the group’s findings.