|Julian Assange has insisted the claims are part of a smear campaign against him [EPA]|
A senior Swedish prosecutor is re-opening a preliminary investigation into rape charges against Julian Assange, the founder of whistle-blowing website Wikileaks.
Marianne Ny said the decision to reopen the investigation, which was dropped by a lower official two weeks ago, was taken after further review of the case.
“There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed,” the chief prosecutor said on Wednesday.
“Considering information available at present, my judgement is that the classification of the crime is rape,” she said in a statement.
The development is the latest twist in a case where prosecutors of different ranks have overruled each other.
on August 20 a Swedish duty prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Assange, an Australian citizen, over rape and molestation allegations.
The rape charge was dropped almost immediately, but prosecutors continued to look into the accusation of molestation, which is not considered a sex offence under Swedish law.
However Claes Borgstroem, the lawyer for Assange’s alleged victims, lodged an appeal against Finne’s decision to a special department in the public prosecutions office.
Assange, 39, has said the allegations against him are part of a “smear campaign” aimed at discrediting his website, which published more than 70,000 secret military files on Afghanistan – in what US officials have called one of the biggest security breaches in their military history.
The website plans to release another 15,000 documents imminently.
Assange has said was previosuly warned by Australian intelligence that he could face a campaign to discredit him after leaking the documents in July.
He was questioned by police over the molestation claim late on Monday, but could face further interrogations.
“In this investigation, I have decided it should continue and we will decide on measures, including interrogations”Ny said, but would not confirm whether an arrest warrant for Assange would be issued.
Leif Silbersky, his lawyer and one of Sweden’s top defence attorneys, said he expected Ny to “drop the whole thing”.