Sweden reopens Julian Assange rape investigation

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Swedish Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Eva-Marie Persson announced Monday that prosecutors are reopening their investigation of Julian Assange over rape allegations dating from 2010.

After a preliminary investigation, then-Chief Public Prosecutor Eva Finné said she did not believe there was reason " to suspect that he has committed rape", but Assange remained under suspicion of molestation.

Assange, 47, has previously spoken to Swedish authorities about the sexual allegations against him; Persson says new questioning is needed.

Assange had lived inside the Ecuadorian embassy from June 2012 to April 11 this year, when Ecuador lifted his asylum and allowed British police to enter the embassy and arrest him.

Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who served seven years in military prison for sharing classified documents with Wikileaks, is writing a memoir to be released in Canada in 2020 by publisher McClelland & Stewart.

Now, Assange's past is coming to haunt him.

In a statement, WikiLeaks said the reopening of the rape case would "give [Assange] a chance to clear his name".

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The Wikileaks founder, currently in Belmarsh prison in London, now faces likely extradition from Britain.

Rape charges: Swedish prosecutors filed preliminary charges - a step short of formal charges - after Assange's visit to the Scandinavian country in 2010. Recently, Assange was removed from the embassy for extradition to the USA under charges of conspiracy with Chelsea Manning in 2010. She said he would soon ask a Swedish court to remand him in custody in absentia, and a European arrest warrant would be issued.

Julian Assange's Swedish lawyer Per E. Samuelsen told The Associated Press on Monday that the decision to reopen the case is "outrageous".

Britain may take the opportunity to wash its hands of the politically thorny case of extraditing a publisher to the United States by sending him to Sweden instead, though Persson said Assange could not then be extradited to the USA from Sweden without Britain's consent. It may be necessary, with the support of a European Investigation Order, to request an interview with Julian Assange be held in the UK.

Both the USA and Sweden have requested that Assange be extradited.

During the press conference on Monday, Persson said she was aware that the U.S. had already put in an extradition request for Assange.

With two countries seeking to extradite Assange, it will be up to British officials to decide which request, if any, to prioritize.

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The Swedish accusation against Assange dates from August 2010 when two women accused him of rape and other sexual offences following a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm.

"I am well aware of the fact that an extradition process is ongoing in the United Kingdom and that he could be extradited to the US", Ms Persson said.

Media captionVideo footage shows Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London What is the Swedish investigation about?

But Ecuador withdrew Assange's diplomatic asylum on 11 April after some tension between the Australian and his landlords, and Assange was promptly hustled into a Met Police van.

The case was dropped while Mr Assange was sheltering in the Ecuadorean embassy because the court was unable to proceed without his presence.

He said the move compounded the release of recordings of Assange made at the embassy, noting that a complaint has already been filed over that incident.

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