SWEDISH prosecutors have offered to question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London.
The move could potentially end the stalemate in the almost five-year-old investigation into alleged sex offences.
Prosecutors had previously refused to travel to London, where Assange has taken refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy.
Lead prosecutor Marianne Ny explained the change in position today by saying that some of the crimes of which Assange is accused will reach their statute of limitations in August.
Ms Ny 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 in the future.
“Now that time is of the essence, I have viewed it therefore necessary to accept such deficiencies in the investigation and likewise take the risk that the interview does not move the case forward.
One of Assange’s defence lawyers, Per Samuelson, welcomed the move and said Assange was likely to accept the offer after reviewing it in detail. He added that he had spoken to Assange early today.
“This is something we’ve demanded for over four years,” Mr Samuelson told the Associated Press. “Julian Assange wants to be interviewed so he can be exonerated. So of course we welcome this.”
Assange has not been formally indicted in Sweden, but he is wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct and rape involving two women he met during a visit to the Scandinavian country in 2010. He denies the allegations.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’s official representative, said he was surprised by the development, given that Mr Assange has been offering for years to be interviewed inside the embassy.
He said: “I assume this is because it is extremely likely that Julian will win a case in the Supreme Court in Sweden, determining that the arrest warrant be dropped.
“The court has recently announced it will hear the case, and it is quite obvious it will rule in Julian’s favour.”
Mr Hrafnsson said the Swedish prosecutor had “done nothing” to move the case forward for years.
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