Julian Assange’s confinement in the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge, London may finally be approaching its end.
The Ecuador government has reportedly agreed to cooperate with Sweden on an interrogation of the activist publisher over a rape allegation.
“We will cooperate with the Swedish authorities so they can take some statements. We have said that from the beginning,” said Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino in an interview with Spanish-language news site Ecuadorinmediato, which has been reported on by RTE and other publications.
Assange, the creator of whistleblowing website Wikileaks, has lived in Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012. He first took refuge there after facing extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and sexual assault, which he denies. Assange asserts that the Swedish authorities’ investigation is politically motivated, and a possible prelude to being extradited to the United States to stand trial for his work on Wikileaks.
The sexual assault investigation has since been dropped, due to a five-year statute of limitations — but Sweden still wants to interview him about the more serious rape allegations, which will not expire until 2020.
On Wednesday, Sweden formally asked for permission to interrogate Assange in the embassy, AFP reported. Ecuador now says yes — with some conditions.
For one, the interview will be carried out by Ecuadorian prosecutors, not the Swedish investigators, though they can be present. And it will be conducted under Ecuadorian Law, because Assange, who has been granted asylum in Ecuador, is “under our country’s jurisdiction,” according to Patino.
It’s likely to not be what Swedish prosecutors want — but things are finally moving. For years, they had demanded that Assange come to Sweden to be questioned, only accepting the possibility of an interrogation in the embassy in March 2015. But even then there were hold-ups, with Ecuador demanding the companies make an agreement “on general legal cooperation,” according to AFP. This happened in December 2015.
This could open the door for Swedish prosecutors to finally charge him — or drop the investigation altogether.