NEWS BRIEF Ecuador says it will allow Swedish prosecutors to question Julian Assange inside its embassy in London—possibly marking the beginning of the end of the legal impasse involving the WikiLeaks founder.
In a statement, Ecuador’s foreign ministry said it will set a date in the coming weeks for the proceedings inside its embassy, where Assange has lived since 2012. A spokesman for Sweden’s Prosecution Authority welcomed the announcement. Ecuador had previously offered Sweden the opportunity to question Assange inside its embassy, but Swedish prosecutors insisted he be interviewed in Sweden. The two countries signed “an agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters” last December, the Ecuadorian statement said, making Thursday’s announcement possible.
Here’s background to the case, from our previous reporting:
Assange was arrested in 2010 under a European Arrest Warrant issued by Sweden over claims of sexual assault—claims he denies. But in 2012, while on bail, he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London so he could avoid extradition. Last year, Swedish authorities dropped two cases of sexual assault against him, though the allegation of rape still stands—and it’s in connection with that case the Swedish prosecutor wants to question him. Assange says he fears that if he’s sent to Sweden he’d be extradited to the U.S., whose secret diplomatic cables were published by Wikileaks. The U.S. says there’s no sealed indictment against Assange.
In February, a UN panel called Assange’s detention arbitrary. The WikiLeaks founder called that nonbinding ruling a “really significant victory,” but U.K. authorities responded by saying, “This changes nothing.”
WikiLeaks became famous for publishing posted classified information from the U.S. and other countries online. More recently it published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—correspondence that resulted in the resignation of senior DNC officials.