“We will do everything we can to get the prosecutors to reopen the Swedish investigation so that Assange can be extradited to Sweden and be prosecuted for rape. As long as the statute of limitations has not expired my client has hope for restitution,” lawyer Elisabeth Massi Fritz told AFP.
Sweden's director of public prosecutions Marianne Ny decided in May 2017 to shut a preliminary investigation into the rape allegations.
She argued that since Assange could not be reached after taking up residence in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, it was not possible to proceed with the probe. Ny also said that if Assange were to become available again, prosecutors could decide to reopen the investigation.
The Swedish Prosecution Authority said on Thursday that it had learned of Assange's arrest from media reports.
“This is news to us too, so we have not been able to take a position on the information that is now available. We also do not know why he is under arrest. We are following the developments,” said Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren in a statement.
The statement continued: “A preliminary investigation can be resumed as long as the suspected crime is not subject to statute of limitation. In this case, the suspected crime of rape would be subject to statute of limitation in mid-August 2020.”
The Swedish accusation against Assange dates from August 2010 when the alleged victim, who says she met him at a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm a few days earlier, filed a complaint.
She accused him of having sex with her — as she slept — without using a condom despite repeatedly having denied him unprotected sex.
Assange has always denied the allegations, which he feared would lead to him being extradited to the United States and facing trial over the leak of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010, which brought WikiLeaks to prominence.