WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for 4 years to avoid extradition to Sweden, will be interrogated over sex crime allegations next month, prosecutors announced on Monday.
The Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement that Ecuador has granted a Swedish request for legal assistance and for an interview to be conducted by an Ecuadorian prosecutor on November 14. Swedish prosecutor Ingrid Isgren and a Swedish police investigator will also be present.
"Providing Julian Assange gives his consent, a DNA sample will also be taken," the agency said in a brief statement. "The results of the interview will later be reported from Ecuador to the Swedish prosecutors in a written statement."
That statement will then be used to determine how to proceed with the criminal investigation, it added.
"I welcome the fact that the investigation can now move forward via an interview with the suspect," said Marianne Ny, the Authority's Director of Prosecution. Monday's announcement follows years of legal disputes over how to conduct an interview with Assange, who denies the allegations.
Assange has been holed up inside the embassy since the summer of 2012 when Sweden sought his arrest over sexual assault allegations. The Ecuadorian government eventually granted political asylum to Assange to allow him to remain holed up inside the compound, beyond the reach of British police.
A London court had dismissed Assange's appeal in November 2011 and the UK Supreme Court in June 2012 rejected his bid to reopen the extradition case. Scotland Yard has long said that Assange will be arrested once he leaves the embassy compound, but officers ended their permanent police presence in October of last year.
The accusations are unrelated to Assange's work for the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, which brought diplomatic earthquakes to the United States when it began releasing classified documents it had obtained. Assange, however, has claimed that the cases are politically-linked, arguing that the sexual encounters in Sweden were consensual.
Wikileaks' first big scoop was on April 5, 2010, when it released a classified video which showed a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed several unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists. Assange said in earlier interviews that he had been told to expect 'dirty tricks' from the Pentagon, including 'sex traps' to ruin his reputation.
More recently, WikiLeaks has published stolen documents relating to the presidential campaign of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This caused Ecuador to temporarily cut Assange's internet access at the embassy, citing its policy not to intervene in the internal affairs of other states.