Prosecutors questioned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at Ecuador's embassy in London Monday in a move that could end a long diplomatic deadlock that has kept the whistleblower holed up in the embassy for four years.
Swedish chief prosecutor Ingrid Isgren reportedly spent four hours in the embassy after arriving Monday, where she presented questions through Ecuadorean prosecutor Wilson Toainga.
The interview over allegations that Assange committed rape in 2010 was announced last week by the Swedish prosecution office and could end the impasse that has pushed the WikiLeaks founder to seek refuge in the embassy since 2012.
Isgren left the embassy without offering comments about the questioning.
Last week Assange welcomed the news through his lawyer, saying he was looking forward to the “chance to clear his name.” WikiLeaks has said that Sweden's procrastination in the face of Assange and Ecuador's long-standing openness to conduct the interview in the London embassy has denied Assange the right to clear his name.
On Monday, supporters outside the Ecuador's London embassy held signs with message such as "Free Assange" and "U.S.A., hands off Assange." The WikiLeaks founder fears extradition to the United States, where he could face charges such as espionage for releases thousands of secret documents to the public.
Swedish officials will deliver a report on the interview the Swedish prosecutor who will then evaluate whether the investigation should continue or not.
If Sweden eventually drops the investigation and Assange leaves the embassy he could then be arrested by British authorities for breaching his initial bail conditions.
The whistleblower jumped bailed and took refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in 2012 days before he was to be extradited to Sweden because he feared that he would then be handed over to U.S. authorities.
In February, a U.N. panel said his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy equaled arbitrary detention, that he should be allowed to leave and be awarded compensation.
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.
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.
Making sure Assange did not escape from the Ecuadorian embassy has been an operation that has cost the U.K. police over US$18 million.