Breakthrough? Swedish Prosecutors Drop Refusal to Interview Assange in UK

Both a lawyer and spokesperson for WikiLeaks expressed relief on Friday that Swedish prosecutors are now willing travel to London to interview founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange, even as they characterized as ridiculous that fact that it took well over four years to accept such an arrangement.

Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than three years under asylum protection after allegations over sexual misconduct in Sweden sparked a legal battle over extradition. Assange has denied wrongdoing but repeatedly said he would be willing to answer all questions regarding the accusations and details of the case. However, he refused to return to Sweden stating fears of being extradited to the United States over a sealed indictment in that country related to his work with WikiLeaks exposing government and military secrets contained in leaked documents provided by U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

Swedish prosecutors of the case consistently refused Assange’s offer to meet at the embassy in London to conduct the interview, but have now reversed that decision citing the approaching statute of limitations on the alleged offenses in the case.

“My view has always been that to perform an interview with him at the Ecuadorean embassy in London would lower the quality of the interview, and that he would need to be present in Sweden in any case should there be a trial in the future,” said lead prosecutor Marianne Ny in a statement. “Now that time is of the essence, I have viewed it therefore necessary to accept such deficiencies in the investigation and likewise take the risk that the interview does not move the case forward.”

Ny said a request by her office was made to Assange’s legal team on Friday for an in-person interview inside the Ecuador embassy in London. In addition, the prosecutors have requested to take a DNA swab of Assange.

Speaking with the Associated Press, WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said the Swedish decision was “a victory for Julian,” even as he criticized the delay.

“I think it’s absolutely outrageous that it took the Swedish prosecutor 4 1/2 years to come to this conclusion after maintaining that she couldn’t come to London because it would be illegal to do so,” he said. “Obviously that was a bogus argument.”

One of Assange’s lawyers, Per Samuelson, said he had spoken with his client and that they were likely to accept the offer.