Julian Assange will be interviewed at Ecuador's London embassy on Nov. 14, Swedish prosecutors said Monday, in a move that could end a long diplomatic deadlock that has seen the WikiLeaks founder holed up in the London residence since 2012.
"Ecuador has granted the Swedish request for legal assistance in criminal matters and the interview will be conducted by an Ecuadorian prosecutor," the Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement.
The Swedish assistant prosecutor, Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren, and a Swedish police investigator have been allowed to be present at the interview. They will report the findings to Sweden.
Swedish authorities want to question Assange over allegations that he committed rape in 2010. Assange denies the allegations. “A DNA sample will also be taken, provided that Julian Assange agrees to it,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Meanwhile, Assange welcomed the news through his lawyer, saying he was looking forward to the “chance to clear his name.”
The whistleblower sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London in June 2012, fleeing allegations of rape and sexual assault in Sweden dating back to 2010. Assange denies the claims.
“We have requested this interview repeatedly since 2010,” his lawyer, Per Samuelsson, said. “Julian Assange has always wanted to tell his version to the Swedish police. He wants a chance to clear his name. We hope the investigation will be closed then.”
The Australian national claims he refused to travel to Sweden for questioning because he feared extradition to the U.S. over WikiLeaks’ release of 500,000 secret military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The lawyer said the “shape of the questioning” was under discussion. A first hearing scheduled for October with the prosecutor Toainga Wilson had been postponed at Assange’s request, citing “his rights to the protection and defense of his person,” according to Ecuadorean prosecutors.
Swedish prosecutors dropped a sexual assault investigation, concerning another woman, against Assange in 2015 after the five-year statute of limitations expired.
But they still want to question him about the 2010 rape allegation, which carries a 10-year statute of limitations. Assange insists the sexual encounters in question were consensual.
Last month, the Swedish prosecutor’s office rejected Assange’s request to temporarily suspend his arrest warrant so he could leave the Ecuadorean embassy to attend the funeral of his mentor, Gavin MacFayden.
WikiLeaks has returned to the spotlight in recent weeks with the damaging leak of tens of thousands of emails from the U.S. Democratic party and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Last month, the Foreign Ministry of Ecuador said the government had temporarily restricted Julian Assange’s access to the communication system in its embassy in the U.K. in order to not interfere in the electoral process in the United States.