Sweden and Ecuador will discuss letting prosecutors question Julian Assange on rape allegations
Swedish officials will meet their Ecuadorian counterparts on Monday to find a way for Swedish prosecutors to question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over a rape allegation.
“It is the first time that we are going to meet and we will discuss a general agreement for judicial cooperation between the two countries,” Swedish justice ministry official Cecilia Riddselius told AFP on Friday.
Sweden hopes that such a deal would allow them to finally interview Assange, who has been holed up at Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012.
Swedish prosecutors offered in March to question Assange in London, dropping their previous demand that he come to Sweden to answer to the 2010 allegations.
The offer was seen as offering the potential for a breakthrough in the case, which has been deadlocked for nearly five years.
But Quito refused to allow such a meeting, demanding that Stockholm first sign a bilateral agreement.
The announcement of Monday’s meeting comes just two weeks after Swedish prosecutors dropped a sexual assault probe against Assange after the time limit on those charges expired.
But they still want to question him about a rape allegation which carries a 10-year statute of limitations that only expires in 2020.
Assange, who faces arrest if he tries to leave the embassy, has always vehemently denied the allegations and insisted the sexual encounters were consensual.
The embassy, which is under 24-hour police guard, is close to the upscale department store Harrods.
The 44-year-old Australian fears that if he leaves he could eventually face extradition to the United States and a trial over the leak of hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010.
The talks starting Monday will be led by Sweden’s Secretary of State Ann Linde and Ecuador’s Fernando Yepez Lasso.