Swedish prosecutors on Wednesday said they’ll offer a rare update this week on their long-standing rape case against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange amid renewed efforts to rescind a long-standing warrant for his arrest.
The Swedish Prosecution Authority has scheduled a press conference for Friday, May 19, “on the continuation of the Assange case,” authorities said in statement Wednesday. It’ll mark the government’s first update concerning the WikiLeaks publisher since September 2016.
“Julian Assange’s lawyers have requested that the district court revoke the warrant of arrest. The prosecutors will hold the press conference to provide further details concerning how the case will proceed,” the statement said.
Per Samuelson, a Swedish attorney for the wanted WikiLeaks chief, told The Washington Times on Wednesday that he wasn’t sure what prosecutors have planned for Friday’s event, but reiterated his desire to see Stockholm drop it’s years-long case against his client.
“In my firm opinion the prosecution should announce the closing of the case and also the lifting of the detention order. That is why we have filed to the district court of Stockholm and demanded the court to do so,” Mr. Samuelson told The Times.
Swedish authorities have sought Mr. Assange’s arrest for years with regards to allegations of rape dating back to 2010. He’s also wanted by U.S. authorities for disclosing classified documents through his website WikiLeaks, however, and has cited a looming federal indictment as evidence he’ll be extradited stateside and criminally tried if and when he agrees to leave his residence within the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and personally answer to prosecutors in Stockholm.
While Mr. Assange’s legal team has fought for years in favor of quashing the Swedish arrest warrant, his attorneys mounted a new bid earlier this month after the Trump administration said it plans to pursue charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of sensitive U.S. documents.
“If they rescind the detention order, there is a possibility he can go to Ecuador and then he can use political asylum in an entire country,” Mr. Samuelson told Reuters earlier this month. “Given that the U.S. is obviously hunting him now, he has to make use of his political asylum and it is Sweden’s duty to make sure that Sweden is no longer a reason for that fact he has to stay in the embassy.”
Swedish prosecutors plan to respond no later than Friday this week and “will submit a statement to the Stockholm District Court regarding the detention of Julian Assange,” according to Wednesday’s announcement.
WikiLeaks’ most infamous source, meanwhile, Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, was released from military prison in Kansas on Wednesday after spending seven years behind bars for supplying Mr. Assange’s website with classified U.S. documents. Pvt. Manning, 29, was sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison, but the bulk of her remaining sentence was commuted by then-President Barack Obama shortly before leaving office this year.
Mr. Assange did not immediately respond to The Times’ requests for comment Wednesday.
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