Julian Assange: Swedish prosecutors ask to detain WikiLeaks founder over rape investigation

Stephanie Cockroft
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Swedish court rules it will not seek to detain Julian Assange over rape allegation

Sweden has filed a request to detain WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over a rape allegation.

If granted, the warrant would be the first step in a process to have Assange extradited from Britain, where he is serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail.

Sweden reopened an investigation into the rape allegation, first made in 2010, on May 13, a month after Assange was arrested.

Assange, 47, who denies the accusation, has avoided extradition to Sweden for seven years after seeking refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012.

Eva-Marie Persson, the deputy director of public prosecutions in Sweden, asked Uppsala District Court to detain him in his absence.

She said: “I request the District Court to detain Assange in his absence, on probable cause suspected for rape.

"If the court decides to detain him, I will issue a European Arrest Warrant concerning surrender to Sweden."

Julian Assange on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court on April 11 (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Swedish prosecutors originally decided to drop the rape investigation two years ago, saying they felt unable to take the case forward while Assange remained holed up inside the embassy.

They said at the time that the investigation could be reopened if the situation changed.

Assange had also faced an investigation over a second allegation, but this was dropped in 2015 because time had run out. He also denied that allegation.

His removal from the embassy in April, and the subsequent decision to reopen the inquiry, has now raised the question of whether his extradition to the US or Sweden should take precedence.

Immediately after his removal and arrest, US authorities made a request for Assange’s extradition in a case relating to WikiLeaks’ release of sensitive military and diplomatic documents.

He faces allegations in the US that he conspired with a former intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning, to download classified databases.

Ms Persson continued: “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.

"The outcome of this process is impossible to predict.

"However, in my view the Swedish case can proceed concurrently with the proceedings in the UK."

The announcement came as WikiLeaks said that Assange's belongings from his time living in the Ecuadorian embassy would be handed over to US prosecutors.

Ecuadorian officials are travelling to London to allow US prosecutors to "help themselves" to items including legal papers, medical records and electronic equipment, it was claimed.

WikiLeaks said United Nations officials and Assange's lawyers were not being allowed to be present.

Lawyers said it was an illegal seizure of property, which has been requested by the US authorities.

The material is said to include two of Assange's manuscripts.