News People Julian Assange may still face rape charge in Sweden, prosecutors say

Julian Assange may still face rape charge in Sweden, prosecutors say

A sketch of Julian Assange when he made his appearance at Westminster Magistrates Court. Photo: ABC: Julia Quenzler
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Julian Assange may yet face rape charges in Sweden as the battle for extradition of the WikiLeaks founder heats up.

Assange was arrested and dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Thursday, bringing an end to his seven-year stay after seeking asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault charges levelled against him.

Those charges were dropped in May 2017, but Swedish prosecutors say they are now re-examining the case after a request by one of the alleged victim’s lawyers.

“After media reports that Julian Assange has been arrested in London, the counsel for the injured party has requested the Swedish preliminary investigation concerning rape be resumed,” the Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement.

“We will now examine the case in order to determine how to proceed.”

The prosecution service said it did not have a timetable for when any decisions on the case would be made, but added the statute for limitations would not expire until August 2020.

The alleged victim’s lawyer, Elisabeth Massi Fritz, told the ABC she hoped prosecutors would “make the only correct decision to resume the preliminary investigation” and request Assange be extradited to Sweden.

“No-one should be able to sit over the law and be evaded by a legal process,” she said in a statement.

“It does not prevent the suspect from being extradited to the US.”

Assange has always denied the allegations, and sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy to prevent facing the charges in Sweden, which he feared would lead to eventual extradition to the United States.

UK police bundle Assange into a waiting van after he was arrested inside the Ecuadorian embassy. Photo: AAP

His fears abruptly turned into reality on Thursday after Ecuador withdraw its asylum and he was charged and promptly found guilty of breaching bail in Westminster Magistrates Court by judge Michael Snow, after originally failing to surrender to the court in 2012.

In the court it was also announced Assange was facing a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion in the US for his alleged role in WikiLeaks’ 2010 dumping of government secrets.

The charge carries a prison term of up to five years.

The 47-year-old’s Swedish lawyer, Per E Samuelson, told local media it would be “highly unlikely” Assange would face a Swedish courtroom, and that the US’s extradition request would trump Sweden’s.

“It’s not going to happen,” Mr Samuelson told the Expressen newspaper.

“Julian Assange cannot be extradited to Sweden when the European arrest warrant against him was withdrawn as early as May 2017.

“As the US has now submitted an extradition application, the Americans have preferential rights under international rules.”

It has also been reported in Swedish media that he is facing a 9 million krona ($1.35m) legal bill after a ruling by Stockholm supreme court that he would not receive any compensation from the state for his court costs.

Assange is due to face Westminster Magistrates Court on May 2 via a video-link from prison over the US extradition case.

He is currently on remand in custody awaiting sentencing at Southwark Crown Court over his bail breach.