A Swedish court has rejected a request to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in absentia, dashing prosecutors’ hopes of having him swiftly extradited from the United Kingdom over an allegation of rape.
The Uppsala District Court, in a ruling on Monday, said the fact that Assange was currently in prison in Britain meant he did not need to be formally arrested and held under Swedish law to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors.
“As Julian Assange is currently serving a prison sentence, the investigation can proceed with the help of a European investigation order, which does not require Julian Assange’s detention [in Sweden]. The court therefore does not find it proportional to detain Julian Assange,” it said in a statement.
Eva-Marie Persson, Swedish deputy director of public prosecutions, had argued that the 47-year-old had not cooperated with the Swedish investigation previously, fleeing from an extradition order, and therefore needed to be arrested and questioned in Sweden.
Assange denies the allegations, which date back to 2010.
Monday’s ruling means the Swedish prosecutor cannot at this stage request Assange’s extradition from Britain.
Last month, the 47-year-old was evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he had been holed up with political asylum since 2012.
He was then immediately arrested by British police on April 11 and is currently serving a 50-week sentence in the UK for jumping bail in 2012.
Assange, an Australian national, is also fighting extradition to the United States, which accuses him of publishing secret documents.
Responding to Monday’s ruling, Persson said she has not decided whether to appeal.
“I will also issue a European Investigation Order in order to interview Julian Assange,” the prosecutor said, adding that she has not picked a possible date for the questioning in Britain.
Per Samuelson, Assange’s lawyer in Sweden, called the Uppsala court’s decision a “big victory” for his client, who would “be happy” to learn he won’t be extradited to Sweden.
“I am seriously, gravely concerned that if this man were to be extradited to the United States, he would be exposed to a politicised show trial and grave violations of his human rights,” Nils Melzer told reporters on Friday
The UN rapporteur on torture, who visited Assange in prison, said the WikiLeaks founder showed “obvious” signs of psychological torture due to years of severe abuse ranging from judicial persecution, isolation and surveillance within the Ecuadorian Embassy, as well as public humiliation and repeated calls for his assassination.