WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange to face questioning over rape claims

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Questioning will be led by Ecuadorian prosecutor

Two Swedish authorities can be present

London CNN —  

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will be questioned in the Ecuadorian embassy in London next month over rape allegations, the Ecuadorian prosecutor’s office said.

Swedish prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Assange in August 2010 based on allegations of sexual assault by two female Wikileaks volunteers in the country and have for years sought his extradition. Ecuador said last month it would allow an interrogation of Assange.

The announcement comes a week after Sweden renewed its calls for Ecuador to go ahead with the interrogation. Sweden and Ecuador had signed an agreement for cooperation and mutual legal assistance on criminal matters.

According to a statement released Monday evening, Ecuadorian prosecutor Wilson Toainga Toainga will lead the interrogation October 17, based on questions sent by Swedish authorities, and DNA samples may be taken from Assange.

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Ecuadorian authorities will allow two Swedish officials to be present during the interrogation, the statement said.

The Australian-born Assange, 45, denies the allegations and has been holed up at the embassy since 2012. He has said he fears an extradition to Sweden could lead to another extradition to the United States, where he could face the death penalty if he is charged and convicted of publishing government secrets through WikiLeaks.

Swedish authorities said in August 2015 that they were discontinuing their investigation into suspected sexual molestation and unlawful coercion allegations as the five-year statute of limitations had been reached.

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In July, Assange made headlines again after WikiLeaks published emails and voicemails leaked from the Democratic National Committee.

Maximum sentence of six years

On a separate matter, the Swedish Court of Appeals announced Tuesday it would rule on Assange’s appeal to rescind his detention order this Friday. Assange’s first appeal was denied in May.

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Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny told reporters last week that the maximum sentence in rape cases is usually six years, though in Assange’s outstanding case she estimated a potential sentence of 18 months to two years.

Since WikiLeaks launched in 2006, it has published thousands of classified government documents, diplomatic cables and videos.