Swedish prosecutors announced Monday that they would reopen their rape investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently serving a 50-week jail sentence in Britain for jumping bail on an arrest warrant stemming from the sex-crimes case.
Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecution, told reporters Monday that the investigation would be resumed. “I have today taken the decision to reopen the preliminary investigation,” she said at a news conference, adding that authorities believe there to be enough “probable cause” in the case for it to proceed.
Reopening the investigation became an option after Assange was arrested April 11 in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he had been holed up for nearly seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden to face the sexual assault accusations against him. Officers from Scotland Yard moved in on him on after the government of Ecuador revoked his asylum, saying that it had had enough of Assange and what they called his rude, aggressive and unsanitary behavior inside their embassy in London’s upscale Knightsbridge neighborhood.
The WikiLeaks founder, who is an Australian national, was found guilty of breaching his bail conditions, and was sentenced May 1 to nearly a year in jail. He is expected to serve at least 25 weeks of the sentence before he can be released, Persson said. Following his arrest, the lawyer for one of the two women who have accused him of sexual assault asked for resumption of the investigation, which had been shelved because Assange was unavailable for questioning in person. He denies the allegations.
Assange is also facing an extradition request from the U.S., which wants to prosecute Assange on charges that he conspired to help U.S. Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning download and leak a massive trove of classified military documents.
Sweden’s decision to revive its investigation into Assange raises the issue of which country’s extradition requests takes precedence. Stockholm had first issued a European warrant on Assange in 2010 after two women accused him of sexual molestation and assault, and British police arrested him. But before his scheduled extradition to Sweden in 2012, he bolted into the Ecuadorean embassy.
Assange and his supporters have called the Swedish investigation a pretext for his extradition to the U.S., where they say he could face the death penalty. The charges so far prepared against him in the U.S. carry a prison sentence of five years, but more charges could be in the offing.