Sexual Assault Allegations Against Julian Assange Set to Expire

Assange to be cleared of sex assult
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures during a news conference at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London August 18, 2014. John Stillwell/Reuters

Julian Assange is set to be cleared of three out of four sexual assault claims brought against him in 2010, because the allegations are set to expire over the next seven days under Sweden's statute of limitations.

Assange, the founder of whistleblowing organization Wikileaks, has avoided extradition to Sweden by taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 after being granted political asylum by the country in August 2012. A fourth allegation of rape does not expire until 2020, meaning he will still be arrested if he leaves the embassy.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority (SPA) has said that an allegation of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion both expire on Thursday August 13 and another allegation of sexual molestation expires on Tuesday August 18. All three of the allegations were made by a woman who invited Assange to stay at her flat in Stockholm, Sweden, in August 2010.

The woman alleges that Assange, 44, went too far during a consensual encounter in her flat, forcibly removing her clothes, and breaking her necklace. She says he held her down in her flat and had unprotected sex with her. According to police files seen by the Guardian in 2010, she told police "she tried a number of times to reach a condom, but Assange had stopped her by her arms and pinning her legs," until he finally agreed to wear a condom, after ripping it.

When later interviewed by police, Assange claimed he had not ripped the condom and had continued to sleep in the woman's bed for a further week.

Under Swedish law, charges for both sexual molestation and unlawful coercion offences must be brought to court within five years of the alleged incident.

However, another allegation against Assange, filed by a second woman who alleges that he raped her while she was asleep after a night of consensual sex, also in Stockholm in August 2010, is not due to expire until 2020.

In 2010, Wikileaks published thousands of confidential U.S. diplomatic and military documents, which led to a U.S. investigation in which prosecutors sought to charge Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917.

He fears that travelling to Sweden to face the charges, all of which he denies, would lead to his ultimate extradition to the U.S. to face the espionage charges. When the allegations were first made into 2010, Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, described them as a "honeytrap". "After what we've seen so far you can reasonably conclude this is part of a greater plan," he said.

Earlier this year, instead of extraditing him back to Sweden, Swedish prosecutors offered to interview Assange at the embassy in London in a bid to question him before the charges expired. Assange accepted this offer and was due to be questioned on June 17, but this never happened.

Amid mutual accusations as to which party was to blame for the lack of progress, Swedish prosecutors said that the Ecuadorian embassy had refused to grant them access to Assange until Sweden officially recognised his asylum status.

The Ecuadorian embassy denied on Monday ever being approached by Swedish prosecutors. "On no occasion has any representative of the Kingdom of Sweden presented themselves at the embassy in relation to the Assange matter," a statement from the Ecuadorian embassy read.

A spokeswoman for the SPA said: "The prosecutor still wants to interview him. The prosecutor still has not got permission from Ecuador."

Claes Borgstrom, a lawyer representing the woman whose allegations against Assange have been dropped, told the Times that, although the expiration of time on the charges against Assange is an "injustice," his client is now beginning to move on with her life.

"On one hand she wants him ... to answer to the allegations, and of course to be convicted. But on the other hand she is relieved that she will not have to stand in court," Borgstrom said.