pSwedish prosecutors have reopened an investigation into a rape allegation made against Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange in 2010.
The inquiry has been revived at the request of the alleged victim’s lawyer.
Assange, who denies the accusation, has avoided extradition to Sweden for seven years after seeking refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012.
The 47-year-old was evicted last month and sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail conditions.
He is currently being held at Belmarsh prison in London.
Swedish prosecutors originally decided to drop the rape investigation two years ago, saying they felt unable to take the case forward while Assange remained holed up inside the embassy.
But on Monday, Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson, announced the case would be reopened because there was still “probable cause to suspect” that Assange had committed the alleged rape.
“Now that he has left Ecuador’s embassy, the conditions in the case have changed and… the conditions are in place once again to pursue the case,” she said at a news conference, adding that a European Arrest Warrant would now be issued.
His removal from the embassy, and the subsequent decision to reopen the inquiry, is likely to raise the question of which extradition request should take precedence: that of Sweden or the US.
The US is seeking Assange’s extradition from the UK over his alleged role in the release of classified military and diplomatic material by Wikileaks in 2010.
Australian-born Assange faces a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion in the US. He is accused of participating in one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets, which could result in a prison term of up to five years.
Sweden’s original extradition request was made under the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) arrangements. However, it was withdrawn and so the extradition request from the US now ranks first in line. In order to displace it, Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecutions said a fresh EAW request would now be issued.
If that does happen the decision as to which of the two requests take precedence will be made by UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid. He would make his decision primarily on the basis of which alleged offence was considered to be more serious.