Sweden to question Julian Assange in London embassy hideout

Assange has fought against being extradited to Sweden, as he fears he will be transferred to the United States to face charges on WikiLeaks' activities

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This file photo taken on February 05, 2016 shows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange coming out on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy to address the media in central London on February 5, 2016.

Swedish authorities have written to the Ecuadorean foreign office in UK seeking a meeting with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, as he began his fifth year holed out in the Ecuadoran embassy in London.

It could prove to be a major breakthrough in the protracted standoff between the 44-year-old Assange and Sweden, where he is wanted in relation to a 2010 rape allegation. "Interviewing Assange inside the embassy has been Ecuador's request for four years. Over 1,400 days we have been asking the Swedes to come and interrogate him in our embassy. So it is welcome there has been change of heart and some sign of political will," said Ecuador's foreign minister, Guillaume Long.

"But since November 2010 and March 2015, Sweden made 44 such requests to other countries to interview suspects in other cases. So it is very common and could be easily done, but we faced total refusal for years," he added.

Long confirmed that the Swedish attorney general had made a formal request that was being considered, The Guardian reported. The Australian national has been living inside Ecuador's UK mission for four years after the South American country offered him asylum.

Assange denies the rape charges and has fought against being extradited to Sweden, saying he fears he would then be transferred to the US to face charges on WikiLeaks' activities. A UN working group had ruled in February that Assange was being arbitrarily detained.

However, the UK Foreign Office has called for the UN decision to be reviewed, saying Assange was staying in the embassy voluntarily and that the UK had a legal duty to extradite him to Sweden. Long said Ecuador's legal department will now examine Sweden's request and would also want assurances that the UK would not seek to prosecute Assange for avoiding arrest. 

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