On Thursday, Ecuador said it will set a date for Swedish prosecutors to question Julian Assange inside its London embassy.
This could be a potential breakthrough in the years-long international case against the WikiLeaks founder. Assange is wanted for questioning by Swedish authorities over a rape allegation after he visited Sweden in 2010. However, he has not been charged and he has denied the rape claims made against him by two women. In June 2012, he sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London.
Last year Ecuador said it had agreed to Sweden’s proposal to interview Assange in the embassy; Ecuador’s foreign ministry released a statement in which they said the date for questioning in the embassy would be set “in the coming weeks.”
Swedish Prosecution Authority spokeswoman Karin Rosander explained that Sweden submitted a formal request to interview Assange in January and received Ecuador’s reply on Tuesday.
“This is decisive to be able to take a decision whether to formally charge him or not,” Rosander said.
The office of Ecuador’s chief prosecutor released a statement on Thursday, reporting that Ecuadorian officials would oversee the questioning under an accord they signed with Sweden in December. In upcoming days, chief prosecutor Galo Chiriboga would choose a team to “receive” Assange’s testimony at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Assange’s defense team released a statement, saying they welcomed the process taking place to take Assange’s statement.
If extradited to Sweden, Assange, 45, faces possibly being sent to the United States to be prosecuted for WikiLeaks’ publication of secret documents. He faces arrest by British police if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy; Assange has not been outside for years.
In its statement, Ecuador reinforced its 2012 decision to grant Assange asylum because of “fears of political persecution.”