Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is to be questioned on Nov. 14 at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has been living for more than four years.
Swedish prosecutors, who made the announcement, say that Ecuador has granted their country’s request and that a joint interview will be conducted involving officials of both countries.
The interview, originally planned for October, is to address the allegation of a rape in Sweden in 2010, a crime that Mr. Assange denies and for which he has yet to be charged. Indeed, it was allegations of rape and sexual assault that initially caused Assange to seek asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in June 2012, citing fears that extradition to the Scandinavian country would leave him vulnerable to a similar request from the United States on charges of espionage related to WikiLeaks.
A Swedish assistant prosecutor and police investigator will be present at the London embassy when an Ecuadorean prosecutor interviews Assange, according to the agreement struck between Sweden and Ecuador. If the interviewee consents, a DNA sample will also be taken.
"We have requested this interview repeatedly since 2010," said Assange’s lawyer, Per Samuelsson, according to the Guardian. "Julian Assange has always wanted to tell his version to the Swedish police. He wants a chance to clear his name. We hope the investigation will be closed then."
The investigation has essentially been on hold ever since the WikiLeaks founder entered the embassy, with Swedish and Ecuadorean authorities, as well as Assange’s legal team, unable to agree on where or how the interview should be conducted.
While Assange has always been technically free to leave the Ecuadorean embassy, he has chosen not to do so because of an outstanding arrest warrant that seeks his extradition to Sweden. Yet it is the work of his WikiLeaks organization that he cites as his reason for fearing such an eventuality, worried that the trove of 500,000 secret military files they have released could result in a US extradition request.
So far, the United States has neither brought charges nor issued such a request.
WikiLeaks itself aroused the world’s attention again recently, as it began to release thousands of apparently hacked emails from John Podesta, the Hillary Clinton campaign manager, in an apparent effort to disrupt the Democratic presidential nominee’s chances of gaining the White House. As a result, Ecuador temporarily cut off Assange’s internet access, saying that his activity was having a “major impact” on the US presidential election.
This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.