Sweden's deputy director of public prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson, told a press conference in Stockholm that she had decided to reopen an investigation into the alleged rape of a woman in Sweden in 2010.
The decision comes almost two years to the day after Sweden's director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, said she was unable to continue the probe after Assange took up residence in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012. She said at the time that if he were to become available again, the case could be reopened.
The WikiLeaks founder is currently being held in Belmarsh high-security prison in London after he was evicted from the embassy last month and sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching bail.
“On account of Julian Assange leaving the Ecuadorian embassy, the circumstances in this case have changed. I take the view that there exists the possibility to take the case forward,” said Persson.
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The US has also filed an extradition request for Assange, in relation to WikiLeaks' release of a number of military and diplomatic documents. He is accused of conspiring with former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack classified databases, a charge which could result in a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Persson said that in the event of a conflict between Sweden's European arrest warrant and the US' extradition request, it was up to UK authorities to decide on the order of priority.
“The outcome of this process is impossible to predict. However, in my view the Swedish case can proceed concurrently with the proceedings in the UK,” she said in a statement.
Sweden has until mid-August 2020, when the statute of limitation expires, to press charges.
Persson said her decision to reopen the preliminary investigation should not be seen as an indication on whether or not she intends to prosecute Assange, which she said would be a question for a later date.
She said the next step would be to try to organize a new interview with Assange, and that she would be prepared to request to question him in the UK or via video link if necessary.
“Such an interview, however, requires Julian Assange's consent,” she said.
WikiLeaks' editor Kristinn Hrafnsson said on Monday that the prosecutor's decision would give Assange “a change to clear his name”, adding that there had been “political pressure” on Sweden to reopen the case.
“Recall that it was initially dropped in 2010 when a prosecutor concluded that 'no crime at all' had occurred,” he added.
The Swedish accusation against Assange dates from August 2010 when two women accused him of rape and other sexual offences following a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm.
The only remaining formal allegation relates to rape, after investigations into molestation and unlawful coercion were dropped in 2015 because the statute of limitations had passed.
Assange has always denied the accusations, which he feared would lead to him being extradited to the US and facing trial over the leak of hundreds of thousands of secret documents in 2010, which brought WikiLeaks to prominence.
The Local has attempted to reach lawyers for both Assange and the alleged victim.