QUITO – Ecuador and Sweden have signed an agreement that will enable Swedish prosecutors to question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at Ecuador’s embassy in London, the Andean nation said Friday.
Negotiations began in June and the agreement was reached on Thursday, Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that it will enter into force “in the coming days.”
Sweden wants to question Assange on a rape allegation dating back to 2010.
Assange, an Australian citizen, sought refuge at the Ecuadorian mission in June 2012 after losing a long battle in the British courts to avoid extradition to Sweden.
Assange, who denies the accusations, has said that once he is in Swedish custody, U.S. prosecutors will indict him for espionage and Washington will pressure Stockholm into handing him over.
Politicians and pundits in the United States called for Assange to be prosecuted – or even assassinated – after WikiLeaks disseminated thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables as well as a video that showed an American military helicopter crew killing a Reuters photographer and several other civilians in Iraq.
The agreement on legal assistance in criminal matters is “undoubtedly an instrument that strengthens bilateral relations and will facilitate, for example, compliance with court proceedings, such as the questioning of Mr. Assange,” the ministry said.
The statute of limitations on unlawful coercion and sexual molestation allegations against Assange expired in August.
But a fourth accusation of rape, which like the others stemmed from Assange’s encounters with two women in Sweden in 2010, will not expire until 2020.