- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A meeting six years in the making between WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange and Swedish authorities will commence next week in London, officials in Stockholm said Monday.

Mr. Assange will be interviewed Nov. 14 at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London with regards to long-standing rape allegations, the Swedish Prosecution Authority announced in a statement.

Pending the outcome of the interview, Mr. Assange may once and for all be able to travel to Ecuador without risking arrest more than four years after he was granted political asylum there upon taking residence at its embassy in London.

Mr. Assange, 45, has been wanted for questioning by Sweden since becoming the subject of rape allegations raised after he traveled to Stockholm in 2010.

He’s adamantly denied the accusations, but has refused to travel to Sweden for fear that his arrival will inevitably lend to being extradited to the United States and charged in connection with WikiLeaks’ unauthorized publication of classified government documents.

In a statement Monday, the Swedish Prosecution Authority said that officials in Stockholm and Quito have reached an arrangement that will see Mr. Assange being interviewed in a matter of days.

“Ecuador has granted the Swedish request for legal assistance in criminal matters and the interview will be conducted by an Ecuadorian prosecutor. The Swedish assistant prosecutor, Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren, and a Swedish police investigator have been allowed to be present at the interview. Providing Julian Assange gives his consent, a DNA sample will also be taken,” the statement said.

The results of the interview will later be reported in a written statement from Ecuador to Sweden, at which point prosecutors in Stockholm will decide whether or not to continue its case, the statement said. 

“I welcome the fact that the investigation can now move forward via an interview with the suspect,” Sweden’s top prosecutor, Marianne Ny, said in a statement.

“We have requested this interview repeatedly since 2010,” a lawyer for Mr. Assange, 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. We hope the investigation will be closed then.”

Mr. Assange took residence at the Ecuadorian Embassy in June 2012 and was granted asylum by Pres. Rafael Correa two months later. Because of an active arrest warrant issued in Stockholm, however, the WikiLeaks chief has been unable to leave the embassy in the years since without being presumably apprehended immediately. A United Nations working group has since concluded that Mr. Assange’s residency there amounts to “arbitrary detention.”

The U.S. has never formally announced charges against Mr. Assange, but two of WikiLeaks’ sources – Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning and hacktivist Jeremy Hammond – are currently serving prison sentences for convictions related to their involvement with the antisecrecy website.

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