What To Know About The Rape Case Against Julian Assange That Was Just Reopened

by Morgan Brinlee
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Sweden has opted to reopen a preliminary investigation into an allegation of rape levied against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange nearly 10 years ago. News of Sweden's decision comes roughly a month after Assange was arrested in London for jumping bail after years of hiding in the Ecuadorean Embassy. Here's what you need to know about Sweden's decision to reopen the Assange rape case.

According to CNN, Swedish authorities plan to issue a European warrant for Assange's arrest as part of the country's first steps in reopening an investigation into rape allegations against the WikiLeaks founder. (He has denied those allegations.) In announcing the decision on Monday, Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden's deputy director of public prosecutions, said the arrest warrant did not represent an indictment against Assange but was rather a means for authorities to take Assange into custody for questioning.

"Conditions have changed in the case and I believe that there are again opportunities to push the matter forward," NPR reported Persson said when announcing the country's decision to reopen the preliminary investigation. While Assange submitted to questioning from Swedish authorities regarding the allegations years ago, Persson has said new questioning was needed, NPR reported. According to the news outlet, Swedish authorities are hoping to extradite Assange from the United Kingdom.

Here's a refresher of how the investigation has played out so far:

The Case Stems From Allegations Made In 2010

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In August 2010, two Swedish women alleged that Assange had sexually assaulted them during separate sexual encounters while he was visiting the country. According to Vox, a woman initially identified only as Miss A, but who later publicly identified herself as Anna Ardin, alleged that Assange had "done something" to the condom she'd demanded he wear so that it ripped before he ejaculated, essentially forcing her into unprotected sex. A second woman alleged that Assange penetrated her without a condom the morning after the pair had consensual and protected sex in a separate encounter that allegedly occurred a few days after his activities with Ardin, the news outlet reported.

Assange Has Denied The Allegations

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According to Vox, Assange has long denied the women's allegations. What's more, The New York Times has reported that Assange and his supporters have argued the allegations are an attempt to discredit the WikiLeaks founder and justify his extradition to the United States.

"This investigation has been dropped before, and its reopening will give Julian a chance to clear his name," The New York Times reported WikiLeaks' editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, recently said in a statement.

These Are The Same Allegations That Sent Assange Into Hiding

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Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in 2012 after The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled in favor of his extradition to Sweden over the allegations. A statement recently released from WikiLeaks, has claimed Assange sought refuge at the embassy not because he wanted to avoid facing the allegations against him in Sweden but so as to avoid the onward extradition to the United States expected to follow.

Assange's Accusers Were Subjected To Widespread Criticism

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Many of Assange and WikiLeaks' supporters were quick to dismiss the women's allegations, characterizing them as either insignificant or "dirty tricks" concocted by governments eager to see WikiLeaks shut down, Vox has reported. At one point, a lawyer for Assange painted the two women as "honeytraps" whose allegations were "part of a greater plan" against Assange, the Guardian reported.

He's Spoken With Swedish Prosecutors Regarding The Allegations

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While Assange refused to return to Sweden, he agreed to submit to Swedish prosecutors questions while living in the Ecuadorean Embassy. According to the BBC, Sweden's chief prosecutor traveled to the embassy in November 2016 and listened as an Ecuadorean prosecutor asked Assange the questions. Assange's refusal to adhere to Sweden's extradition request stemmed from his feared he would subsequently be extradited from Sweden to the United States for WikiLeaks' release of confidential U.S. military documents, the British news outlet reported.

The Initial Investigations Were Dropped Years Ago

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According to the BBC, prosecutors in Sweden dropped the initial investigation into Ardin's allegations of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in August 2015, saying they had run out of time to question him on the matter. Nearly two years later, in May 2017, Swedish prosecutors also dropped the initial investigation into the rape allegation, concluding there was no way for the case to move forward while Assange was protected inside the Ecuadorean embassy, The New York Times reported.

However, according to the paper, prosecutors reserved the right to reopen the investigation any time before Sweden's 10-year statute of limitations expires on it in 2020.

The Case Could Complicate A U.S. Effort To Extradite Assange

Authorities in the United States have been working to extradite Assange on charges of conspiracy since he was arrested in London last month, the Guardian has reported.

Britain Will Get To Determine Which Country Gets Precedence

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According to The New York Times, British officials will ultimately be the ones who decide which country's case is given precedence. What's more, should they decide to first send Assange to Sweden, the U.S. would still need Britain's permission to extradite Assange from there.