Stockholm: Sweden’s sexual assault inquiry on Julian Assange is deadlocked with Ecuador over a dispute regarding the WikiLeaks founder’s asylum status, Swedish officials said today.
Ecuador wants Sweden to sign a bilateral agreement on judicial cooperation regarding the Assange case before allowing Swedish prosecutors to question him on allegations of rape and sexual assault that date from 2010, Stockholm said.
“Ecuador wants Sweden to recognise Assange’s asylum status. This demand is unreasonable. Sweden cannot recognise an asylum status granted by another country, in line with international law,” Swedish justice ministry official Cecilia Riddselius told AFP.
Swedish prosecutors petitioned the Ecuadorian embassy in June to interview Assange, who has been holed up inside Quito’s London mission since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on allegations of rape and sexual assault — accusations by two women that the 44-year-old Australian vehemently denies.
The statute of limitations on three of the four allegations expires next week — August 13 and 18. Assange is also suspected of rape, which carries a 10-year statute of limitations and therefore expires in 2020.
Riddselius said Ecuador’s demand “has nothing to do with Sweden’s request, which is to question (Assange).”
“Holding the interrogation does not change the fact that Assange has asylum in Ecuador,” she said.
She said the purpose of Quito’s demand was open to interpretation, but to show Stockholm’s goodwill, the justice ministry has offered to sign a general agreement on judicial cooperation with Quito.
“We are awaiting an answer,” Riddselius said.
Swedish prosecutors initially insisted Assange return to Sweden for interrogation — a condition he has 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.