Assange interrogation in London on track, but no date set

As soon as it becomes clear that there are no obstacles, requests will be sent to British and Ecuadorian authorities

WikiLeaks front-man Julian Assange has provisionally agreed to be interviewed by police in London, as part of a Swedish investigation into allegations against him of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion, the Swedish prosecutor said Friday.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority had wanted Assange to return to Sweden for interview and to submit to a DNA test, but Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden. Last month, though, the prosecutor took a different approach, making a request to Assange's legal representatives to do the interview and test in London.

On Friday the authority said it had received Assange's consent, with some reservations, to be interviewed in London at the Ecuadorian embassy and have his DNA taken.

"As soon as it becomes clear that there are no obstacles... we will submit a request for legal assistance to the British authorities to further continue the investigation," Marianne Ny, Director of Public Prosecution said.

A request will also be sent to the Ecuadorian authorities regarding permission to perform the investigation at the country's embassy in London, according to Ny. At present, it isn't possible to say when the interview will take place, the statement added.

In an email sent on April 16 to Ny, Assange's lawyer Per E Samuelson questioned whether the terms for the interview are in accordance with the Swedish code of judicial procedure and comparable European, English and Ecuadorian laws. He also said that Assange might wish to exercise his right to have legal representation from relevant jurisdictions.

The Ecuadorian embassy in London declined to comment on the matter. It has been hosting Assange since June 2012.

The reason for the prosecution authority's change of heart was chiefly that a number of the crimes Assange is suspected of would be subject to a statute of limitation in August.

Assange, who has always denied the charges directed at him, took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy to prevent extradition to Sweden because he feared he could eventually be extradited from there to the U.S. to face charges for publishing thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables on the WikiLeaks website.

In Sweden, every extradition case has to be judged on its own individual merits. For that reason the local government can't provide a guarantee in advance that Assange wouldn't be subject to further extradition, the Swedish Prosecution Authority wrote on its website.

However, once the British authorities enforce the U.K. Supreme Court's decision to extradite Assange to Sweden, the country is bound by the so-called "Doctrine of Speciality" which means that it can't extradite him further to a third country, for example the U.S., without permission from the U.K., the authority added.

WikiLeaks has continued to work while Assange has been confined to the Ecuadorian embassy. On Thursday, the organization was back in the news when it published a database of thousands of emails and documents from Sony Pictures Entertainment that were leaked in late 2014 after the studio was attacked by hackers.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

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