STOCKHOLM: Sweden’s sexual assault inquiry on Julian Assange is being pinched by time, with the statute of limitations about to expire on one charge and investigators unable to access Ecuador’s embassy in London to question the WikiLeaks founder.
Swedish prosecutors petitioned the Ecuadorian embassy in June to interview Assange, who has been holed up in Quito’s London mission since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on allegations of rape and sexual assault—charges Assange vehemently denies.
But access has thus far been delayed on procedural grounds, leading some people involved in the case to suspect Ecuador of playing the clock until mid-August, when the statute of limitations on the sexual assault accusation will expire.
“I am very critical of Ecuador’s position. It can’t really be said they did what they could to allow Sweden to question Assange,” said Claes Borgstrom, a lawyer for one of the two women who accuse the WikiLeaks founder of having assaulted them in 2010.
Swedish prosecutors initially insisted Assange return to Sweden for interrogation—a condition the 44-year-old Australian rejected on fears Stockholm could deliver him to US authorities, who may try him for leaking nearly 750,000 classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010.
If Swedish justice authorities are not allowed to question Assange before the statute of limitations on the sexual assault charges expire on August 13 and 18, Borgstrom said he was pretty sure the case will be dropped.
“If the statute of limitations expires, and most indications are that it will, the prosecutor will close the investigation,” he said.
Should that happen, however, the inquiry would continue into the accusation of rape, which carries a 10-year statute of limitations and therefore expires in 2020.