STOCKHOLM • Swedish prosecutors were expected yesterday to drop a sexual assault probe against Julian Assange when the case reaches its expiration date without investigators having succeeded in questioning the WikiLeaks founder.
Two of the four allegations against Assange - who has been holed up at Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition - are reaching their statute of limitations after five years.
The accusations involve one count of sexual assault and another of unlawful coercion. A separate allegation of sexual molestation will run out next Tuesday. The 44-year-old Australian can still, however, be prosecuted for the more serious claim of rape, which carries a 10-year statute of limitations and expires in 2020.
Assange denies the allegations against him and insists the sexual encounters were consensual. Under Swedish law, if a suspect is not questioned before the deadline expires, they can no longer be tried for the alleged crimes.
Prosecutors have been unable to gain access to Ecuador's embassy. They initially insisted Assange return to Sweden for interrogation - a condition he rejected on fears that Stockholm could deliver him to the United States authorities, who may try him for leaking nearly 750,000 classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010.
In March, prosecutors agreed to Assange's compromise offer to question him inside the London mission but they have yet to see their request approved by Ecuador because of procedural issues.
Assange has compared living inside the embassy to life on a space station. His 4.6m by 4m room is divided into an office and a living area. He has a treadmill, shower, microwave and sun lamp and spends most of his day at his computer.