Swedish women's rights groups regret Assange not questioned over sex crimes allegations


  • World
  • Wednesday, 26 Jun 2024

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange disembarks from a plane at Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport, Thailand, in this screengrab from a video released to social media on June 25, 2024. Wikileaks via X/via REUTERS

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Women's rights advocates said on Tuesday they regretted that Julian Assange was not questioned over rape and other sex crime allegations in Sweden, as the WikiLeaks founder eyes freedom after a long legal odyssey in Britain.

The Australian is due to make a deal in a U.S. court on Wednesday that will set him free after five years in British prison.

Between 2012 and 2019, Assange took refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London to duck extradition to Sweden over the 2010 allegations, claiming the Nordic country may in turn extradite him to the U.S. where he faced espionage charges.

Assange has rejected the Swedish accusations.

Swedish prosecutors in 2019 dropped their remaining probe, into rape, saying the plaintiff's account of events was credible but the many years passed had weakened evidence.

"It's a betrayal against the women who reported him and who have not been given a chance for legal redress," said Clara Berglund, head of the Swedish Women's Lobby, an umbrella organisation for women's rights groups.

"It's a chapter of shame and betrayal that ends with his release," she said. "This is about a case that takes place on the major political stages, and men's violence against women is given incredibly little weight."

A spokesperson for Assange was not immediately available for comment.

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the rape case plaintiff's lawyer, said it is bad that Assange could not be tried in Sweden.

"There was evidence and it would have been of great importance to have the evidence tested in a Swedish court. For a plaintiff, it is extremely important," she said.

One of the women who filed complaints against Assange in Sweden over sexual assault, Anna Ardin, said on X she welcomed his release.

"I have had zero power here but I'm happy that he is out and hope he can fight for transparency and human rights, without molesting women," she said.

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom and Marie Mannes; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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