The lawyers of Julian Assange have asked for the Swedish warrant for their client’s arrest be dropped. The request has formally been made to a Swedish court, on the grounds that, Assange’s lawyers claim, “there have arisen a number of new circumstances which mean there is reason to review the earlier decision.”
Assange has been effectively confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge for the past three years, where he has been granted political asylum. He entered the embassy after failing in an appeal against extradition from the UK to Sweden in order to answer rape charges which he insists are entirely “without basis.” He has since been unable to leave for fear of arrest and extradition.
Assange believes that if he were extradited to Sweden, he would then be sent to the US for trial over the revelations he made through whistle-blowing website Wikileaks. In the US, he could potentially face torture and for this reason, Assange and his lawyers argue, it would be wrong for him to be extradited.
He made a complaint to the UN committee in 2014, in which he claimed that his inability to leave the embassy without facing arrest meant that he was “arbitrarily detained.” Earlier this month, a UN group gave the opinion that Assange had indeed effectively been “unlawfully detained” in the Ecuadorian embassy.
The charges against Assange were first made in 2010, when Assange was accused of one count of rape and another of molestation. However, he was released and was permitted to leave Sweden. His arrest warrant was reportedly cancelled by the Chief Prosecutor at the time on the grounds that, though she did not doubt that the complainant was telling the truth in her description of events, that description “does not support the contention that a crime has taken place.”
In London, he was later arrested again and granted bale. An extradition hearing led to the UK Supreme Court ruling in 2012 that he should be sent to Sweden to be questioned by the Swedish Prosecutors’ Office in relation to the allegations, after which he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in order to claim asylum and has remained there ever since.
The request to overturn his arrest warrant follows shortly after Marianne Ny, the Director of Public Prosecution for Sweden, revealed that the Swedish Prosecutor’s Office was working on the possibility of questioning Assange in London. A previous request to interview Assange in relation to the allegations without first extraditing him to Sweden had, she said, been denied by Ecuador’s Prosecutor-General. Nonetheless, the Prosecutors’ Office is working on a new request and is continuing to explore the possibility of questioning Assange in his current location.