, Stockholm, Mar 13 – Swedish prosecutors on Friday offered to question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London over rape allegations that have driven him to take refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in the British capital.
The move offers a possible breakthrough in the five-year-case related to accusations of alleged sex crimes.
Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Assange in 2010 over charges made by two women of rape and molestation.
But the 43-year-old has refused to return to Sweden to face the charges, which he has vehemently denied, fearing that Stockholm would extradite him to the US to be tried for his role in WikiLeaks’ publication of classified US diplomatic, military and intelligence documents.
In 2012 he took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he has been since at a cost of 11,000 euros ($10,300) each day, according to his lawyers.
Up to now, Swedish prosecutors have refused to go to London to question Assange over the charges.
But on Friday, the prosecutor in charge of the case said she was changing her stance as the statute of limitations on some of the crimes will become effective in August.
“Marianne Ny has today made a request to Julian Assange’s legal representatives whether Assange would consent to being interviewed in London and have his DNA taken via a swab,” her office said in a statement.
“My view has always been that to perform an interview with him at the Ecuadorian 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,” Ny said.
“This assessment remains unchanged,” she said. But “now that time is of the essence, I have viewed it therefore necessary to accept such deficiencies to the investigation and likewise take the risk that the interview does not move the case forward,” she said.