A Swedish court has rejected a request to detain 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 it considered Assange “a suspect” in the 2010 case, but said the fact he was currently in prison in Britain meant he did not need to be formally considered detained under Swedish law to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors.
Assange denies the rape allegations.
The decision on Monday means Assange will not be extradited to Sweden for now.
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 Britain for jumping bail in 2012.
He is also fighting extradition to the United States, which accuses him of publishing secret documents.
Responding to Monday’s ruling, Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecutions, said she has not decided whether to appeal.
“I will also issue a European Investigation Order in order to interview Julian Assange,” Persson said, adding that she has not picked a possible date for the questioning in Britain.
Per E 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.
On Friday, a United Nations human rights expert called for an end to the “collective persecution” of Assange, and appealed to the British government not to extradite the Australian national to the US.
“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.
In a statement, Melzer argued that the US, UK, Sweden and Ecuador were “ganging up” on Assange in an attempt to “deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse” him.