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Julian Assange will be questioned next week over longstanding rape accusations, Sweden’s public prosecutor’s office announced on Monday, saying an Ecuadorian prosecutor would visit the WikiLeaks founder in the embassy where he has been holed up since 2012. Through his lawyer Assange welcomed the news saying he was looking forward to the “chance to clear his name”.
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The Swedish authorities said one of the prosecutors on the case, Ingrid Isgren, as well as a Swedish police inspector would also attend the questioning on November 14 and report the findings to Sweden. “A DNA sample will also be taken, provided that Julian Assange agrees to it,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
The 45-year-old whistleblower sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London in June 2012, fleeing allegations of rape and sexual assault in Sweden dating back to 2010. Assange denies the claims. An Australian national, he had refused to travel to Sweden for questioning due to concerns that he would then be extradited to the United States over WikiLeaks’ release of 500,000 secret military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We have requested this interview repeatedly since 2010,” his lawyer Per Samuelsson told AFP. “Julian Assange has always wanted to tell his version to the Swedish police. He wants a chance to clear his name,” he said. “We hope the investigation will be closed then.”
The lawyer added the “shape of the questioning is under discussion.” A first hearing scheduled for October with the prosecutor Toainga Wilson had been postponed at Assange’s request, citing “his rights to the protection and defense of his person,” according to Ecuadorian prosecutors. Swedish prosecutors have dropped a sexual assault probe, concerning another woman, against Assange last year after the five-year statute of limitations expired.
But they still want to question him about the 2010 rape allegation, which carries a 10-year statute of limitations. Assange insists the sexual encounters in question were consensual. Last month, the Swedish prosecutor’s office rejected Assange’s request to temporarily suspend his arrest warrant so he could leave the Ecuadoran embassy to attend the funeral of mentor Gavin MacFayden.
WikiLeaks has meanwhile returned to the spotlight in recent weeks with the damaging leak of tens of thousands of emails from the US Democratic Party and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.