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Swedish court rejects request to detain Julian Assange over 2010 rape case

An extradition request for the WikiLeaks founder has already been issued by the US, where Assange is facing 18 charges.

Image: Victoria Jones

Updated Jun 3rd 2019, 5:38 PM

A SWEDISH COURT said it considered Julian Assange a suspect in a 2010 rape case, but rejected a request to detain him, dashing the prosecutor’s hopes of having him swiftly extradited from Britain.

The Uppsala District Court said that the fact that Assange was currently in prison in Britain meant he did not need to be formally detained in Sweden to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors.

“As Julian Assange is currently serving a prison sentence, the investigation can proceed with the help of a European investigation order, which does not require Julian Assange’s detention (in Sweden). The court therefore does not find it proportional to detain Julian Assange,” it said in a statement.

Swedish deputy director of public prosecutions Eva-Marie Persson had argued that the 47-year-old had not cooperated with the Swedish investigation previously, fleeing from an extradition order, and therefore needed to be detained and questioned in Sweden.

The Australian whistleblower, who holed himself up in Ecuador’s embassy in London for seven years to avoid a British extradition order to Sweden, was arrested by British police on 11 April after Quito gave him up.

He was subsequently sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching bail conditions when he took refuge in the embassy.

Swedish prosecutors had closed the rape investigation in 2017 as they said they were unable to proceed without access to Assange, but they reopened the case in May after his arrest.

Assange is also facing an extradition request from the United States, where he faces a total of 18 charges, most of which relate to obtaining and disseminating classified information over the publishing of military documents and diplomatic cables through the website WikiLeaks.

Health concerns

On Thursday, a scheduled hearing on the US extradition request in London was pushed forward with chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot referring to Assange was “not very well,” and stating that the next hearing could be held at Belmarsh prison, where Assange is serving his sentence.

The day before WikiLeaks expressed “grave concerns” over the condition of the organisation’s founder and said he had been moved to the prison’s health ward.

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“During the seven weeks in Belmarsh his health has continued to deteriorate and he has dramatically lost weight,” WikiLeaks said in a statement.

Earlier in the week Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Per E Samuelson, also unsuccessfully requested the Uppsala District Court to postpone the Swedish hearing, citing difficulties he had preparing the case with his client.

Samuelson told AFP that he had met with Assange in Belmarsh’s health ward on 24 May, but had been unable to discuss the case properly since “it was difficult to have a normal conversation with him”.

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Nils Melzer, said the drawn out different legal processes against Assange amounted to “psychological torture”.

- © AFP, 2019 

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