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Sweden to reopen a rape case against Julian Assange

Sexual assault allegations are partly what led the WikiLeaks founder to remain inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for nearly seven years.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces a reopened Swedish rape investigation.

Daniel Leal-Olivas /AFP/Getty Images

Swedish authorities will reopen an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The inquiry was revived at the request of the alleged victim's lawyer, the BBC reported Monday. The investigation began after two women in 2010 accused Assange (who was living in London) of sexually assaulting them while in Stockholm for a WikiLeaks conference. Assange has long denied the allegation.

He is currently serving a 50-week sentence in British jail for skipping bail in 2012. He was arrested immediately after he was forced to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London last month.

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He'd lived there for nearly seven years to avoid being extradited to Sweden over the nine-year-old allegations and later to the US for his alleged role in a massive leak of classified materials, which the US Justice Department called "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States."

Sweden dropped the investigation in 2017 because it couldn't proceed while Assange remained in the embassy, but prosecutors noted at the time that they hadn't cleared him.

In the wake of his arrest, Elisabeth Massi Fritz, a lawyer for one of the alleged victims, tweeted about their efforts to get the Swedish investigation reopened.

"No rape victim should have to wait nine years to see justice be served," she wrote.

Since the US has already kicked off the extradition process on the conspiracy charge, British officials "will decide on the order of priority," according to the Swedish Prosecution Authority. Earlier this month, Assange refused to surrender to a US extradition request during a London hearing.

Neither WikiLeaks, Assange's lawyer nor the US Justice Department immediately responded to a request for comment.

First published at 2:53 a.m. PT.
Updated at 3:55 a.m. PT: Adds more detail.