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Swedish court rejects detention request for Julian Assange

A court in Sweden has rejected a request for Julian Assange to be detained in absentia, complicating Swedish hopes of extraditing the Wikileaks founder to face trial for rape.

Uppsala District Court ruled that "a detention order would not be in accordance with the principle of proportionality," as Mr Assange was already serving a a 50-week sentence in Britain's Belmarsh prison for skipping bail.

The decision comes a month after Sweden reopened a nine-year-old investigation into accusations that Mr Assange in 2010 penetrated without a condom a woman while she was sleeping next to him in bed.

Mr Assange denies the charges.

Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden's deputy director of public prosecutions, on May 20 applied for Mr Assange to be placed in pre-trial detention, which would have allowed her to issue a European Arrest Warrant and begin extradition proceedings.

But Per E Samuelson, Mr Assange's lawyer, argued in today's hearing that it made no sense to see his client as at risk of flight while he was already detained in the UK.

Fulfilling the requirements for issuing an arrest warrant, he added, was not legal grounds for a detention order.

The UK in April received a request to extradite Mr Assange to the US, where he faces a total of 18 charges, most of which relate to obtaining and disseminating classified information over the publishing of military documents and diplomatic cables.

If Sweden puts forward a competing extradition request, the power to decide which takes priority rests with Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary.

In its ruling, the court accepted both that there was "probable cause for the suspicion of rape, less serious incident", and that there was "a risk that Julian Assange will fail to appear or in some other way avoid participation".

But it accepted Mr Samuelson's argument that this was not sufficient justification for a detention order.

"Since Julian Assange is serving a prison sentence, the public prosecutor can proceed with the preliminary investigation by issuing a European Investigation Order," it said in a press release.

Ms Persson said that she "fully respected" the court's ruling on "a difficult question which I felt needed to be tested in court".

"Now the investigation will continue partly with interviews carried out in Sweden, partly through a European Investigation Order which is to be issued for the purpose of interviewing Julian Assange."

She told a press conference after the ruling that she was currently 'assessing' whether to travel to the UK to interview Mr Assange in person.

The case is one of two accusations of so-called 'minor rape' which led Sweden to seek to extradite Mr Assange from the UK in 2011, leading him to seek asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012.

[Source: By Richard Orange, The Telegraph, London, 03Jun19]

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