Former prosecutor says it would be uphill task even if rape inquiry is reopened
Swedish lawyers have said they doubt Julian Assange will ever stand trial in Sweden even if prosecutors decide to reopen an investigation into a rape accusation.
The WikiLeaks founder was arrested in London on Thursday after being dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had stayed since 2012 in order to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he has always denied.
I think it would be a very uphill task to reopen the investigation in Sweden, Sven-Erik Alhem, a former prosecutor, told the Swedish news agency TT. Testimony usually weakens with time, and its now been 10 years.
In addition, Alhem said, Assange was not about to volunteer to come to Sweden, and a new international arrest warrant for him would of course have to be issued for him here. In all, it seems a very steep hill to climb.
Assanges Swedish lawyer, Per E Samuelson, told Swedish media he would be tremendously surprised to find himself ever defending his client in a Swedish court. I think this is highly unlikely, he said.
Its not going to happen. Julian Assange cannot be extradited to Sweden when the European arrest warrant against him was withdrawn as early as May 2017.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.
The Swedish prosecution service is considering whether to reopen the investigation, which was shelved in 2017 because Assange could not be reached. The lawyer of the Swedish woman who accused Assange of rape in 2010 said she and her client would do everything we can to get the case reopened.
As long as the statute of limitations has not expired, my client has hope for restitution, said Elisabeth Massi Fritz, adding that Assange should be extradited to Sweden and prosecuted for rape.
The prosecution service said on Thursday that Eva-Marie Persson, a deputy chief prosecutor in Gothenburg, would handle the case. Well examine the matter to determine how we proceed, Persson said. We cannot promise any timetable for when decisions will be made.
Swedens former director of public prosecutions Marianne Ny said when halting the preliminary investigation two years ago that if Assange were to become available in the future, it could be reopened. The statute of limitations on the allegations runs out in mid-August 2020.
Assange, 47, was issued on Friday with a SKr9m (800,000) bill for legal costs in Sweden after the Stockholm supreme court issued an unexpected and apparently coincidental ruling that he would not receive any state compensation for his court costs.
Samuelson said he last talked to his client a couple of weeks ago and did not discuss how Assange was feeling, but added: Everyone can see how he is now This is his worst nightmare. He applied for political asylum and chose to stay seven years at the embassy in order not to be extradited to the US.
Assange was in an extremely serious situation, Samuelson told the Swedish public broadcaster SVT. This also shows that he was absolutely right to be worried about an eventual extradition to the US, where he risks lengthy prison sentences, he added.
The Swedish prosecution service declined to say whether it would have expected to be informed in advance of the British arrest, which it said on Thursday that it had learned of from media reports.
The rape accusation against Assange dates from August 2010, when the alleged victim, who says she met him at a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm a few days earlier, filed a complaint.
She accused him of having sex with her while she was sleeping, without using a condom, and despite her repeated refusals to have unprotected sex with him.
A separate investigation into allegations of unlawful coercion and molestation against Assange by a second woman in Sweden was halted in August 2015 due to time restrictions.
I would be very surprised and sad if Julian is handed over to the US, the woman said on Thursday. For me, this was never about anything else than his misconduct against me and other women, and his refusal to take responsibility for this.
Assange has always denied all the allegations, which he feared would lead to him being extradited to the US and facing trial over the leak of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010.
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