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Sweden seeks Assange extradition as prosecutor reopens rape investigation

The investigation was dropped in 2017 as Assange had taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London

Niklas Pollard Simon Johnson | Reuters 

Julian Assange
Julian Assange gestures as he arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London

Sweden's state prosecutor said on Monday she would reopen an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and seek his extradition from Britain.

Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson told a news conference she would continue and conclude a preliminary investigation that was dropped in 2017 without charges being brought as Assange had taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Assange was arrested in Britain last month after spending seven years inside the embassy. The United States is also seeking his extradition on charges relating to the public release by Wikileaks of a huge cache of secret documents.

The Swedish prosecutor's office said it would shortly request Assange be detained in his absence on probable cause for an allegation of rape and that it would issue a European arrest warrant - the process under which his extradition would be sought.

Assange is currently in prison in Britain after being sentenced to 50 weeks behind bars last month for jumping bail when he fled to the Ecuadorean embassy.

The decision to reopen the investigation poses the question of whether Assange will be moved to the United States to face conspiracy charges for hacking into classified information or to Sweden.

"I am well aware of the fact that an extradition process is ongoing in the UK and that he could be extradited to the US," Persson said.

The British courts will have to rule on any extradition request and Home Secretary Sajid Javid would decide which one takes precedence once Swedish prosecutors file theirs.

Nick Vamos, lawyer at London-based firm Peters & Peters and former head of extradition at Britain's Crown Prosecution Service, told Reuters before Monday's decision that he expected a Swedish request would take supremacy.

"In the event of a conflict between a European Arrest Warrant and a request for extradition from the US, UK authorities will decide on the order of priority," a Swedish prosecutor's statement said.

First Published: Mon, May 13 2019. 16:11 IST
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