Sweden reopens sexual misconduct case against Assange

Alice Summers Ulrich Rippert chair Richard Tyler Chris Marsden and Clara Campos

Assange is serving a 50-week sentence in a United Kingdom jail for skipping bail, and any extradition would only take place once that ends.

Speaking in Stockholm, deputy director of prosecutions Eva-Marie Persson said "the circumstances had changed" after Assange, 47, was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London last month where he had been since 2012.

"If Sweden were to make a competing extradition request, then the home secretary [in the U.K.] might choose to give that priority and that could mean that there is at best a delay to the US extradition request", said European Union criminal law expert Anna Bradshaw of Peters & Peters.

Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Assange in 2010.

The statute of limitation for rape in Sweden is 10 years - a deadline which would be reached in mid-August next year for that alleged incident, leaving prosecutors pressed for time should they decide to file any formal charge.

If Sweden requests Assange's extradition from the UK, Home Secretary Sajid Javid would choose which request - Sweden's, or America's, to address first.

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Assange's Swedish lawyer Per E. Samuelson told The Associated Press on Monday that the decision to reopen the rape case is "outrageous".

"I have today made a decision to reopen the investigation".

If Assange was taken to the United Sattes, this would likely rule out his facing trial in Sweden due to the statute of limitation. He fought the extradition up to the UK Supreme Court, where he lost in 2012. The outcome of this process is impossible to predict. Swedish authorities have had to shelf it because Assange was living at the embassy at the time and there was no prospect of bringing him to Sweden. The original rape probe related to the allegations of two women, one of whom said Assange failed to use a condom while another said he had sex with her while she was asleep.

A police officer who heard the women's accounts decided there was reason to suspect they were victims of sex crimes and handed the case to a prosecutor. He is now being held at Belmarsh prison in London. It's expected it would take a year or longer for him to be sent to the United States or possibly to Sweden even if he ultimately loses in court.

"Since Julian Assange was arrested in 11 April 2019, there has been considerable political pressure on Sweden to reopen their investigation, but there has always been political pressure surrounding this case", he said.

He said in a statement that Persson had been under "intense political pressure" to reopen the case, and criticized authorities for "mishandling" it from the start.

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