Four years after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange took refuge in the Ecuador embassy in central London, Swedish prosecutors have agreed to his demand that he be questioned in a sexual assault case inside the mission.
The development, revealed in an official statement in Ecuador, is likely to lead to a breakthrough to end the imbroglio that has cost Scotland Yard millions of pounds in security outside the embassy.
Assange is the subject of an European arrest warrant, which Britain is obliged to implement. If he steps out of the embassy, he faces arrest and extradition to Sweden.
Ecuador’s attorney general is reported to have delivered a document agreeing to a request by the Swedish prosecutor to question Assange, who is wanted for questioning over a rape allegation that he has denied.
Assange has refused to travel to Sweden to face the allegation as he believes he will be taken to the United States because of the many leaks of classified documents by WikiLeaks in recent years.
The statement issued in Ecuador said: “In the coming weeks a date will be established for the proceedings to be held at the embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom.
“For more than four years, the government of Ecuador has offered to cooperate in facilitating the questioning of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, as well as proposing other political and legal measures, in order to reach a satisfactory solution for all parties involved in the legal case against Julian Assange, to end the unnecessary delays in the process and to ensure full and effective legal protection.”
The statement added: “In line with this position, Ecuador proposed to Sweden the negotiation of an agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, which was signed last December and which provides the legal framework for the questioning.
”Ecuador’s foreign ministry reiterates its commitment to the asylum granted to Julian Assange in August 2012, and reaffirms that the protection afforded by the Ecuadorian state shall continue while the circumstances persist that led to the granting of asylum, namely fears of political persecution.”