Swedish court rejects request to detain Assange in absence over rape allegation

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A Swedish court has ruled that Julian Assange should not be detained in absentia, the first step necessary under Swedish law before a formal bid of extradition can be made to Britain, according to Swedish news site The Local.

The court said it shared the prosecutor's opinion that the Wikileaks founder was suspected of rape and "that there is a risk that Julian Assange will fail to appear or in some other way avoid participation in the investigation".

"If the court decides to detain him, I will issue a European Arrest Warrant concerning his surrender to Sweden", she said before the hearing.

I will also issue a European Investigation Order in order to interview Julian Assange.

Assange's defence lawyer, Per E. Samuelsson said he was happy to learn his client would not be extradited to Sweden.

Assange, who is facing rape charges in Sweden, is now serving a year-long sentence in the United Kingdom for skipping bail by hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy for seven years.

He is serving a 50-week prison sentence in London after being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in April and jailed for a bail violation.

An investigation has been reopened into an allegation of rape in Sweden, which Assange has always denied.

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Although at that time the investigation also included three cases of sexual harassment and unlawful coercion, all have since reached their statute of limitations.

The Swedish rape investigation was the reason Assange spent nearly seven years in self-imposed exile in London's Ecuadorian Embassy.

Assange, from Australia, is also fighting extradition to the USA, which accuses him of violating the Espionage Act by publishing secret documents hacked from the Pentagon containing the names of confidential military and diplomatic sources.

The only reason for Sweden to detain Assange is to compete with the US, he said, arguing that he can be questioned in prison via a video link.

Swedish prosecutors reopened their investigation in May a month after Assange was arrested and removed from the embassy. The United States has already requested Assange's extradition on conspiracy charges.

"No date has been set yet", Persson said. Speaking on a US TV interview, Mr Hunt also said he would not block the WikiLeaks founders' extradition to the US if he won the Tory leadership bid, something American prosecutors are seeking on spying charges.

"During the seven weeks in Belmarsh his health has continued to deteriorate and he has dramatically lost weight", WikiLeaks said in a statement.

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