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Swedish prosecutor files request to detain Assange over rape allegation

FILE PHOTO: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves Southwark Crown Court after being sentenced in London, Britain, May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – The Swedish prosecutor heading an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday filed a request with a local court for his detention in absentia.

If granted, the court order would be the first step in a process to have Assange extradited from Britain, where he is serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail.

Sweden reopened an investigation into the rape allegation last week. It was first made in 2010 but dropped in 2017 after Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Assange, who denies the accusation, was arrested in London last month after spending seven years inside the embassy.

“I request the District Court to detain Assange in his absence, on probable cause suspected for rape,” Deputy Chief Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said in a statement on Monday.

She said she would issue a European arrest warrant for Assange to be surrendered to Sweden if the court decided to detain him.

Sweden’s decision to reopen the rape investigation casts doubts on where Assange may eventually end up, with U.S. authorities already seeking his extradition over conspiracy charges relating to one of the biggest ever leaks of classified information.

Reporting by Helena Soderpalm and Esha Vaish; editing by John Stonestreet and Niklas Pollard

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