Swedish prosecutors have asked for Julian Assange's consent to interview him in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy for the past three years.
If Assange gives his consent, the prosecutor will interview him at the embassy and take a DNA swab as part of the Swedish investigation into rape and sexual assault allegations against him.
The move marks a major breakthrough in Assange's long-running standoff with Swedish prosecutors.
Until now, they have refused to interview Assange at the embassy, insisting he should go to Sweden to face questioning while Assange's lawyers have accused them of breaching Swedish law by refusing to interview him in London. Although Assange's lawyers lost an appeal last year on the matter, the Swedish courts said at the time that the prosecutor hadn't done enough to further the investigation.
In a statement today, the prosecutor's office said it's willing to interview Assange in London because the crimes he's suspected of will be subject to a statutory limitation in August this year. In other words, time is running out for the prosecutor to bring any formal charges against Assange.
"The Supreme Court of England and Wales decided in June 2012 that Julian Assange should be surrendered to Sweden. He has prevented this submission by taking refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy," director of public prosecutions Marianne Ny said.
"My view has always been that to perform an interview with him at the Ecuadorian embassy in London would lower the quality of the interview, and that he would need to be present in Sweden in any case should there be a trial in the future. This assessment remains unchanged. Now that time is of the essence, I have viewed it therefore necessary to accept such deficiencies to the investigation and likewise take the risk that the interview does not move the case forward, particularly as there are no other measures on offer without Assange being present in Sweden."
Assange's lawyer welcomed the change of tune from the prosecutor. "We welcome and see it also as a big victory ... for Julian Assange that what we have demanded is finally going to happen," Per Samuelson, Assange's lawyer, told Reuters.
Assange sought cover in the embassy in 2012 on the belief that if he went to Sweden to face questioning, he would be extradited to the US where could be charged over leaking sensitive documents.
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