Ecuador and Sweden reach a deal "on legal assistance in criminal affairs"
Julian Assange has been accused of rape in Sweden; he has denied the claim
Five years after Julian Assange was accused of rape in Sweden, Ecuador and Sweden have reached an agreement that would allow him to be interrogated by Swedish officials at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
The WikiLeaks founder has been holed up at the embassy for more than three years to avoid extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors want to question him about the rape allegation.
Assange, an Australian, has not been charged and has denied the rape claim. Ecuador granted him political asylum in 2012.
But on Thursday, Ecuador and Sweden reached an agreement “on legal assistance in criminal affairs as a result of the negotiations which started last June,” the Ecuadorian Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
“The agreement guarantees, among other things, the application and respect of the national legislation and principles of international rights, particularly those related to human rights, and the full exercise of national sovereignty, in any case of legal assistance between Ecuador and Sweden.”
As a result, the deal also facilitates Assange’s questioning, the Ecuadorian ministry said. It did not release any more details about the potential interviewing of Assange.
Swedish Justice Ministry official Cecilia Riddselius confirmed the two governments had “reached a general agreement on legal assistance in criminal matters.”
On Thursday, Sweden’s government will make a decision on the case, which would then be “followed by an exchange of diplomatic notes,” she said.
It would then be up to the Swedish state prosecutor to renew a request to interview Assange under the terms of the agreement, she said.
He has said he fears Sweden would extradite him to the United States, where he could face the death penalty if he is charged and convicted of publishing government secrets through WikiLeaks.
Swedish prosecutors have previously balked at questioning Assange at the embassy in London, arguing it should take place on Swedish soil.
But the fact that the statute of limitations for some of his alleged crimes were set to expire this year spurred Swedish authorities to change their approach.
Last year, Assange gave consent to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Since WikiLeaks launched in 2006, it has published thousands of classified government documents, diplomatic cables and videos.
For years, WikiLeaks has released sensitive government documents. In 2007, it posted a procedures manual for Camp Delta, the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay.
WikiLeaks has also published almost 400,000 classified military documents from the Iraq war, providing insights on how many Iraqi civilians have been killed and many accounts of abuse by Iraqi’s army and police.
CNN’s Lucy Pawle, Elwyn Lopez and Dana Ford contributed to this report.