The lawyer of Julian Assange says the news that Swedish prosecutors want to question WikiLeaks founder in London over allegations of sexual assault is a “victory”.
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN (MARCH 13, 2015)(TV4) – Swedish prosecutors said on Friday (March 13) they had asked for Julian Assange’s approval to question him in London, a U-turn after years of insisting he must go to Stockholm for questioning about alleged assaults against two women in 2010.
The WikiLeaks founder denies the allegations, which are not related to WikiLeaks’ publication of U.S. military and diplomatic documents, also in 2010. He refused to go, arguing Sweden could send him on to the United States where he might face trial.
One of Assange’s lawyers said his client welcomed the request.
“Well, we got that via e-mail early this morning and I called Mr Assange immediately and told him this news and he was very happy, he said ‘this is a great victory for me, I’ve been asking for this for over four years’. At the same time he was irritated that it took Marianne Ny so long to understand that she had to do this,” lawyer Per Samuelson said, referring to the prosecutor in the case.
“Bottom line is, after the autumn of 2010, the prosecutor did nothing for more than four years – that’s clear breech of Swedish law, that has hurt Mr Assange severely and it has also hurt both of the women who have not had their case tried for over four years and it hurts the court because witnesses forget, time passes on and all the evidence is much worse now than it was back in 2010”.
Samuelson said his team would cooperate fully but he also expressed concern the process could take time because approval was needed from British and Ecuadorian authorities.
“Well, we see this as a victory for Assange, we see this as evidence that we were right all the time, that the prosecutor was wrong all the time, and we welcome her initiative and we will cooperate fully to get this interrogation made as soon as possible but it may take some time, but that will not be up to us,” he said.
Samuelson said Assange and his lawyers had to discuss the request from Swedish prosecutors, who also want to sample his DNA, before responding.
He said he would travel to London as soon as possible to see his client and submit a formal reply to the prosecutor.
Ecuador’s embassy in London could not immediately be reached for comment.
Assange, an Australian citizen, has been unable to leave Ecuador’s embassy since claiming asylum there in 2012.
Even if Sweden drops the charges, he faces arrest by British police for jumping bail granted while the UK courts considered a European arrest warrant issued by Sweden.
A Swedish appeals court late last year upheld a detention order on Assange, but said prosecutors had not made enough effort to question him.
The main reason for prosecutors’ change of heart is that several crimes Assange is suspected of are subject to a statute of limitations expiring in August.
Ny said she still believed questioning him at the embassy would lower the quality of the interview and he would need to be in Sweden should the case come to a trial.
Sweden’s Supreme Court is currently weighing whether to hear his request to lift the warrant for Assange’s arrest and has asked the prosecutor to submit an opinion before a decision can be taken.
London’s police chief said last month the cost of keeping watch on Assange was a drain on police resources and the operation was under review.