Ecuador sets date for Assange’s questioning

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will submit to questions in the presence of Swedish officials on October 17th at Ecuador's embassy in London, Ecuador said on Tuesday.

Ecuador sets date for Assange's questioning
Julian Assange. Photo: AP Photo/Frank Augstein

The Australian has been holed up in the embassy since June 2012, when he took refuge there to escape extradition to Sweden to face a rape accusation.

Ecuador's attorney general's office said the judicial procedures would begin on October 17th although the questions submitted by the Swedish prosecutors would not necessarily be put to him on the same day.

Ecuadoran prosecutor Wilson Toainga has been tasked with taking Assange's statement, it said.

“Toainga will take the statement based on a list of questions submitted by the Swedish justice ministry,” the office said, adding that he also would be responsible for “the possible taking of samples of body fluids” from Assange.

Two Swedish officials – Ingrid Isgren and Cecilia Redell – have been authorized to be present during the proceedings, it said.

Assange, 45, who denies the rape accusation, has said he fears the Swedes will turn him over to the United States to face charges for publishing a massive trove of US military and diplomatic documents.

In May, a Swedish court reaffirmed an international arrest order against Assange, rejecting the finding of a UN working group that his confinement in the Ecuadoran embassy amounted to arbitrary detention. Britain also rejected the finding of the UN group, which is not binding.

The Svea Court of Appeal is to decide on Friday whether or not to uphold the arrest warrant.


Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer

Julian Assange would cooperate with Swedish authorities if they reopen a rape case against him but will continue to resist any bid to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said Sunday.

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer
Julian Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson in London on Thursday. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham/TT

“We are absolutely happy to answer those queries if and when they come up,” Jennifer Robinson told Sky News television about the rape claims.

“The key issue at the moment is US extradition, which we have warned about for many years,” she added.

The WikiLeaks founder is in custody in London awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was arrested at the embassy on Thursday after Ecuador gave him up, and is now also fighting a US extradition warrant relating to the release by WikiLeaks of a huge cache of official documents.

The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The first expired in 2015 and the other was dropped in 2017, but the alleged rape victim has now asked for the case to be reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, the British government will have to decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.

Robinson said Assange would seek assurances from Sweden that he would not be sent on to America, saying: “That is the same assurance we were seeking in 2010 and the refusal to give that is why he sought asylum.”

She added: “He's not above the law. Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or indeed Swedish justice. This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice.”

The US indictment charges Assange with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

He faces up to five years in jail.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

But Robinson insisted: “This indictment clearly engages newsgathering activities and the kinds of communications that journalists have with sources all the time.”

The lawyer condemned as “outrageous” claims made by Ecuador about Assange's behaviour in the embassy, including that he smeared his faeces on the wall, saying: “That's not true.”

Quito also accused him of failing to care for his cat. WikiLeaks said Assange had asked his lawyers to “rescue him (the cat) from embassy threats” in October, adding: “They will be reunited in freedom.”

Assange's father, John Shipton, on Sunday urged Australia to bring his son home.