Saturday 26 May 2018

Assange set to be cleared as sex assault claims expire

Julian Assange
Julian Assange

Camilla Turner

Julian Assange is expected to be cleared of three sexual assault claims next week after spending so long in hiding in Britain that the allegations have expired, it has emerged.

The Wikileaks founder has been seeking refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than three years at a cost to the UK taxpayer of around £12m (€16.7m).

He is avoiding extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over the alleged crimes, which include violent sexual assault.

Within a week, three of the four claims he faces will have reached their five-year expiry date under Sweden's statute of limitations. As a result, Mr Assange (44) is due to be cleared, Swedish prosecutors said.

Mr Assange, who denies the sex claims, fears that he will be extradited on to the US to face charges relating to the huge leaks of sensitive data.

Hugo Swire, the British FCO minster, told 'The Times' that the situation was "deeply unsatisfactory and costly".

It is understood that Swedish officials are making a last-minute attempt to quiz Mr Assange over the sex crimes allegations. Charges can't be laid until Mr Assange is interviewed, but talks with Ecuador about the matter are likely to drag on past August 18.

The expiry of most of the claims could prompt Sweden to abandon its prosecution altogether, although an allegation of rape will not expire until 2020.

Meanwhile, Jen Robinson, a member of Mr Assange's legal team, told the Press Association: "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 (Swedish) Prosecutor has denied him this opportunity."

Irish Independent

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