Sweden to reopen rape case against WikiLeaks’ Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being taken from court, where he appeared on charges of jumping British bail seven years ago, in London, Wednesday May 1, 2019. (AP)
Updated 13 May 2019
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Sweden to reopen rape case against WikiLeaks’ Assange

  • While a Swedish case of alleged sexual misconduct was dropped in 2017 when the statute of limitations expired, a rape allegation remains
  • Swedish authorities have had to shelf it because Assange was living at the embassy at the time and there was no prospect of bringing him to Sweden

STOCKHOLM: Swedish prosecutors said Monday they are reopening a rape case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and will seek his extradition after he has served his 50-week prison term in Britain for jumping bail.
Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecutions, told a news conference in Stockholm that “there is still a probable cause to suspect that Assange committed a rape.” She added: “It is my assessment that a new questioning of Assange is required.”
Swedish prosecutors filed preliminary charges — a step short of formal charges — against Assange after he visited the country in 2010, following complaints from two Swedish women who said they were the victims of sex crimes committed by Assange.
The Australian secret-spiller left Sweden for Britain in September 2010, and took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition.
After almost seven years holed up inside the building, he was arrested by British police April 11 when Ecuador revoked his political asylum, accusing him of everything from meddling in the nation’s foreign affairs to poor hygiene.
He is currently in London’s Belmarsh Prison serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail in 2012. He is also being held on a US extradition warrant for allegedly hacking into a Pentagon computer.
While a Swedish case of alleged sexual misconduct was dropped in 2017 when the statute of limitations expired, a rape allegation remains. Swedish authorities have had to shelf it because Assange was living at the embassy at the time and there was no prospect of bringing him to Sweden.
The statute of limitations on that case expires in August next year. Assange has denied wrongdoing, asserting that the allegations were politically motivated and that the sex was consensual.
Julian Assange’s Swedish lawyer Per E. Samuelsen told The Associated Press on Monday that the decision to reopen the case is “outrageous.”
“He is in prison in the UK, he faces the risk of being extradited to the United States and on top of that, to demand that he’s going to put all his energy into looking into a 10-year-old story from Sweden is just too much,” he said.
Persson said a European arrest warrant will be issued for Assange. A Swedish court would formally issue the extradition request, which Assange could appeal.
She added that while there is a risk the case may cut close to the statute of limitations deadline, “there is also a chance that we will be able to get him extradited before August 17 next year.”
The Swedish move would leave British authorities to decide whether to extradite Assange to Sweden or to the United States, where he is wanted separately for allegedly hacking into a Pentagon computer.
Persson said it was “impossible to predict” how the extradition process would unfold.
There was no immediate reaction from Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer for the woman who reported being raped by Assange.
The 47-year-old Australian met the women in connection with a lecture in August 2010 in Stockholm. One was involved in organizing an event for Sweden’s center-left Social Democratic Party and offered to host Assange at her apartment. The other was in the audience.
A police officer who heard the women’s accounts decided there was reason to suspect they were victims of sex crimes and handed the case to a prosecutor.
Neither of the alleged victims has been named publicly.
Assange faces a maximum of four years in prison in Sweden.
The British extradition process is not swift, and Assange could appeal several times if decisions go against him. It’s expected it would take a year or longer for him to be sent to the United States or possibly to Sweden even if he ultimately loses in court.
WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said the decision to reopen the case against Assange “will give Julian a chance to clear his name.”
He said in a statement that Persson had been under “intense political pressure” to reopen the case, and criticized authorities for “mishandling” it from the start.


Pakistan train collision kills at least three

Updated 20 June 2019
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Pakistan train collision kills at least three

  • Baloch said the crash occurred on the main railway track and that train services from Karachi were suspended while the wreckage was being removed
  • Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment

KARACHI: At least three people were killed and several others injured when two trains collided in Pakistan's southern Sindh province on Thursday, officials said.
A driver, assistant driver and a guard were killed when a passenger train travelling to Lahore from the southern port city of Karachi hit a goods train that had stopped at a crossing, railway spokesman Riaz Abbasi told AFP.
Ishaq Baloch, a railway official confirmed the death toll and told AFP that an investigation has been launched to determine the causes of the collision.
Baloch said the crash occurred on the main railway track and that train services from Karachi were suspended while the wreckage was being removed.
All passengers on the train were safe, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, the country's minister for railways told private TV channel ARY.
Video footage on local media showed the damaged engine and bogies of the trains and rescue workers and hundreds of people gathering to rescue the injured.
Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment.