After Five Years of Legal Limbo, Sweden Agrees to Question Assange in London

An Assange supporter holds up a sign outside of the London embassy that reads, "Ecuador, country of freedom." (Photo: AFP)

After Five Years of Legal Limbo, Sweden Agrees to Question Assange in London

Swedish authorities reach deal with Ecuador to interview WikiLeaks founder in embassy where he has asylum

Sweden reached a deal Sunday that will allow authorities to interview WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been living under asylum for the past three years.

Assange's legal team said the deal will allow the case to move forward while ensuring his safety.

"Julian Assange's rights need to be respected by Sweden and the United Kingdom. These countries have failed to do so until now," Baltasar Garzon, one of Assange's attorneys, told the BBC on Sunday. "Assange's only demands are that his fundamental rights are acknowledged and respected, including the asylum granted to him by Ecuador."

Swedish police will now be able to question Assange over a rape allegation after dropping two other sexual assault investigations, which expired after reaching a five-year statute of limitations. Assange has denied the allegations and said he fears arrest by Sweden would lead to his extradition to the U.S., where he faces possible trial over his involvement in WikiLeaks, including the 2010 publication of a trove of secret U.S. military and State Department documents.

"It is, without doubt, an instrument that strengthens bilateral relations and will facilitate, for example, the fulfillment of judicial matters such as the questioning of Mr. Assange," the Ecuadorian foreign ministry said on Sunday.

The deal follows years of debates over Assange's legal standing. In October, Scotland Yard announced it would end its 24-hour surveillance outside the embassy, a five-year operation costing $19.4 million (PS12.6 million) to taxpayers.

According to the British news agency PA, it is unlikely that Assange will be questioned until 2016.

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