WikiLeaks' Julian Assange 'denied chance to clear his name'


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be cleared of three sex assault claims as the prosecution time limits are set to expire while he remains in hiding in London.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority (SPA) has confirmed that three of the four allegations made in 2010 would reach the five-year expiry date, set out under the country's statute of limitations, within the next week.

One allegation of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion would expire today, while another of sexual molestation would expire on August 18, a spokeswoman for the SPA said.

An allegation of rape will not expire until 2020, the spokeswoman added.

The Australian has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over three years and has been granted political asylum.

He is wanted for questioning over sex claims by two women in Sweden - which he strongly denies - but fears being extradited to the United States over secret documents published by the whistleblowing organisation.

The SPA spokeswoman said: "The prosecutor still wants to interview him. The prosecutor still has not got permission from Ecuador."

Jen Robinson, a member of Mr Assange's legal team, told the Press Association: "The Prosecutor had ample opportunity to progress her investigation. Julian has always offered his co-operation because he maintains his innocence and wants to clear his name.

"By failing to question him in London under standard procedures, the Prosecutor has denied him this opportunity. Sweden's own courts found that she was in breach of her duty to progress the investigation.

"Only after being rebuked by the courts did she agree to question him in London, but then delayed further in making the formal request to Ecuador. As his Swedish counsel Thomas Olsson has said, serious questions must be asked about how Sweden has handled this case and whether the investigation should continue.

"It must be remembered that Julian voluntarily offered his testimony in Sweden in August 2010. After hearing his testimony, the chief prosecutor in Stockholm decided to drop the case. The case was later re-opened by the current prosecutor.

"Julian remained in Sweden to resolve the case and only left the country after seeking the prosecutor's permission. Since October 2010 we continued to offer his testimony from London under established mutual legal assistance procedures, which we now know Sweden has used in 44 other cases since 2010. This case could have - and should have - been resolved years ago.

"Ecuador granted Julian asylum due to the risk of persecution should he be extradited to the US for his publishing activities with WikiLeaks. We know from court documents released this year that the US criminal investigation into Julian and WikiLeaks continues. It remains a real risk - and in these circumstances he cannot leave the embassy."

Statute of limitation laws mean a person will be immune from prosecution for a crime if it was committed more than a specified number of years ago.

A statement from Ecuador's embassy on Monday said: "The Embassy of Ecuador to the United Kingdom clarifies that on no occasion has any representative of the Kingdom of Sweden presented themselves at the embassy in relation to the Assange matter.

"The Republic of Ecuador already made the sovereign decision to grant the journalist Julian Assange asylum on 16 August 2012. At no point has the Republic of Ecuador asked the Kingdom of Sweden to grant Mr Assange asylum."

Mr Assange's legal team has estimated the cost of the round-the-clock policing of the embassy in Knightsbridge was now more than £12 million.

Gavin MacFadyen, of the Julian Assange Defence Committee, said: "A collapse of the Swedish preliminary investigation would in no way allow Assange to leave the embassy of Ecuador.

"He cannot leave because of the risk of arrest by the United Kingdom on behalf of the United States. The UK has stated its intention to arrest Assange even if the Swedish preliminary investigation is withdrawn.

"In no way has Assange or Ecuador obstructed the progression of the Swedish investigation.

"Swedish authorities have for three years been offered the option of taking Assange's statement at the embassy, and they have refused. Assange has also offered to go to Sweden if the authorities agreed not to transfer him to the United States, and they have refused.

"By failing to take Assange's statement at the embassy, Swedish authorities have deprived him of the right to answer false allegations against him that have been widely circulated in the media, but for which he has not been charged.

"If the case expires, that deprivation will become permanent and no formal resolution will be available.

"Therefore while a particularly shambolic episode in Swedish justice may be coming to a close, the denial of Julian Assange's liberty continues."