Julian Assange arrest could see Sweden reopening sexual assault case against him
The case of allegations of sexual assaults by two women was dropped by the country in 2017, but prosecutors are mulling a rethink
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by London police on Thursday from the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had been living for the last seven years, according to reports. Assange, to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault by two women, had sought refuge in the South American country's embassy, and although the case was dropped, the chilling details of the accusations still remain.
It now appears that Sweden’s Prosecution Authority may re-open its sexual assault probe against Assange, prosecutor Ingrid Isgren said in a statement on Thursday .
The statute of limitations for the alleged crimes does not expire until August 2020, she said. Isgren said Swedish officials "are following the developments." Sweden dropped the case in May 2017. Assange has denied all the allegations.
Assange, who came to international attention when WikiLeaks published a series of leaks of classified US diplomatic cables provided by whistleblower Chelsea Manning in 2010.
The same year on a visit to Sweden, Assange was questioned about two allegations of sexual assault and rape and initially, the case was closed. BBC reported that the chief prosecutor dropped the case just a day later and Assange was reportedly told he could leave the country.
However, it was re-opened in September by Sweden's Director of Prosecution, Marianne Ny. The country issued an international arrest warrant for Assange over the two allegations. Ny wanted to question Assange over two counts of sexual molestation, one count of unlawful coercion and one count of "lesser-degree rape".
Assange at the time said he was afraid of going to Sweden as he would be sent to the United States to face a criminal federal investigation into WikiLeaks' outing of the infamous Afghanistan war logs, Iran war logs, Cablegate leaks, and Collateral Murder video leak.
Assange once again denied the allegations and said he would be happy to answer her questions in London.
However, Ny said that Swedish law prevented her from questioning anyone by video link or in the London embassy and the case lost pace. She later admitted that it was possible but claimed it would affect the quality of the interview.
Five years after the case was re-opened, Ny agreed to interview Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The interviews only began a year later on 14 November 2016 and by then, the statute of limitations on all the other accusations except "lesser degree rape" had expired. This one is set to expire only in 2020.
Then, in a bizarre turn of events, the case was dropped by Sweden. On 19 May 2017, Swedish authorities said that they were unable to carry out the proceedings, saying the Ecuadorian Embassy had not co-operated with them in the case. Ny told BBC, "If he were to return to Sweden before the statute of limitation on this case expires in August 2020, the preliminary investigation could be resumed." She said it was "regrettable we have not been able to carry out the investigation. We are not making any pronouncement about guilt."
Assange meanwhile, tweeted of his innocence.
Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.— Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) May 19, 2017
As for the plaintiffs, they were "shocked".
The two women, who are known to the media as Miss A or AA and Miss W or SW, however, revealed the details of their allegations and they are, even after all these years, terrifying, to say the least.
Both allegations are centered around Assange having sex with them without protection. Both women also wanted Assange to get an STI test which he didn't take.
According to the Guardian, Miss A told police that the two were in her apartment in Sweden when Assange started stroking her leg and tore off her clothes. She "tried to put on some articles of clothing as it was going too quickly and uncomfortably but Assange ripped them off again", her statement said.
She stated that she didn't want to take it forward "but that it was too late to stop Assange as she had gone along with it so far". She then realized that he was having sex with her without a condom and when she wanted to reach for one, he stopped her by holding down her arms and her legs. He then agreed to use a condom and released her but at some point during the act, he had "done something" and the condom tore and he ejaculated inside her. She is said to have told her friend "Monica" later that "Not only had it been the world's worst screw, it had also been violent."
Assange admitted to having sex with her but denied the allegation that he had torn the condom deliberately. A day after the incident with Miss A, on August 14, 2010, Miss A and Miss W joined Assange and another WikiLeaks co-ordinator for lunch. Assange and Miss W are said to have left together after lunch. The two went for a movie, where, she told cops, he kissed her and put his hands inside her clothes.
Miss W and Assange, according to the police report, went to her flat in Enkoping, near Stockholm, the following day. When they started to have sex, Assange did not want to wear a condom, and she did not want to have sex with him after which they went to sleep.
In the night, the two had sex she said and "he agreed unwillingly to use a condom" she told the cops. In the morning, she woke up to him having sex with her without wearing a condom.
"According to her statement, she said: 'You better not have HIV' and he answered: 'Of course not,' " but "she couldn't be bothered to tell him one more time because she had been going on about the condom all night. She had never had unprotected sex before," the report said.
Assange argued that Miss W called him up to meet and voluntarily engaged in sexual activity in the movies and took him to her flat. The police at the time also spoke to W's boyfriend, who said that having unprotected sex was "unthinkable" for W. The Guardian also states that the cops reached out to Assange for an STI test but he refused claiming he was too busy. On August 22, Assange dismissed the allegations saying it was the US playing tricks.
He tweeted, "Reminder: US intelligence planned to destroy WikiLeaks as far back as 2008." He told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, "Their identities have been made anonymous so even I have no idea who they are. We have been warned that the Pentagon, for example, is thinking of deploying dirty tricks to ruin us."
His lawyers claimed that it was a ploy by Miss W to get money. Assange's UK lawyer, Mark Stephens, attributed the allegations to "dark forces", saying: "The honeytrap has been sprung ... After what we've seen so far you can reasonably conclude this is part of a greater plan."
The coordinator of the WikiLeaks group in Stockholm, who is a close colleague of Assange and who also knows both women, told the Guardian, "This is a normal police investigation. Let the police find out what actually happened. Of course, the enemies of WikiLeaks may try to use this, but it begins with the two women and Julian. It is not the CIA sending a woman in a short skirt."