Prosecutors in Sweden have reopened their investigation into a 2010 rape allegation against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a first step toward seeking his extradition to Sweden. The Swedish case was closed in 2017 due to Assange’s ongoing asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
That asylum—which began in 2012—ended last month when Assange was finally evicted from the embassy and was promptly arrested by the British authorities.
“There is still probable cause to suspect that Mr. Assange committed rape,” Swedish prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said at a Monday press conference.
Assange stands accused of sexually assaulting two women in Sweden. The rape investigation was reopened at the request of the alleged victim.
Persson said that time is of the essence in the rape case because the statute of limitations on one of the alleged assaults runs out in August 2020. The statute of limitations has already expired in the other woman’s case.
If Sweden formally seeks Assange’s extradition to Sweden, it will be up to British authorities to decide whether Sweden’s request gets precedence over a US extradition request. American authorities are seeking to prosecute Assange for attempting—unsuccessfully—to help Chelsea Manning crack the password to a US military computer.
Manning was recently released from two months in jail after she was held in contempt for refusing to testify before a US grand jury about her interactions with Assange. She has said she will not testify in the case and could face additional jail time as a result.