Sweden reopened a rape case Monday against Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange and will seek his extradition.
Assange is currently serving a 50-week prison sentence in the U.K. for jumping bail when he hid in London’s Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 after Sweden first requested his extradition following the initial allegations of sexual assault. Assange was subsequently granted asylum by Ecuador and remained in their embassy for seven years, before being dismissed last month.
Sweden’s latest request for Assange’s extradition could complicate a similar request from the United States, which charged Assange for his role in helping former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning leak thousands of documents of classified information before the 2016 presidential election. (RELATED: Chelsea Manning Locked Up For Refusing To Testify About Wikileaks)
Sweden’s request sets the stage for Britain to field dueling extradition requests from both Sweden and the United States after Assange completes his prison sentence. Swedish prosecutors say British officials will determine which case takes precedence. (RELATED: Judge Sets Date For Julian Assange Extradition Hearing)
Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Per Samuelsson, told The New York Times that Sweden’s decision is “not proportionate,” saying, “He has been sentenced to 50 weeks. He faces extradition for revealing the truth about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To force him to concentrate on this old investigation is highly unreasonable.”
Monday’s turn of events comes nearly two years after prosecutors in Sweden dropped the initial sex crime charges against Assange after he was accused of sexually assaulting two women during a trip to Sweden in 2010.
The Wikileaks founder has been a source of deep polarization in the U.S. and throughout the world. Some writers have argued that Assange deserves to be protected under the first amendment and basic principles of press freedom.
Others have argued that Assange deliberately attempting to extract classified information is not an act of journalism and that his connections to hostile foreign powers such as Russia make him a threat to the U.S.