Swedish prosecutors have reopened their investigation into allegations of rape against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Eva-Marie Persson, deputy director of public prosecutions in Sweden, said: "I have today taken the decision to reopen the preliminary investigation."
The move means Swedish prosecutors are likely to request the extradition of Assange from the UK, where he is currently serving a 50-week prison sentence for skipping bail.
The prosector will "shortly request" that Assange be detained in his absence, the Swedish Prosecution Authority confirmed in a statement. It added that the prosecutor will then issue a European arrest warrant to "execute a detention order".
In addition to the Swedish case, the US has served an extradition request for Assange. He faces a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified US government computer. He could spend up to five years in prison if convicted, but may yet face further charges.
UK authorities will have to decide which extradition request to prioritise if Sweden, too, issues a request.
"I am well aware of the fact that an extradition process is ongoing in the UK and that he could be extradited to the US. In the event of a conflict between a European Arrest Warrant and a request for extradition from the US, UK authorities will decide on the order of priority," Persson said.
"The outcome of this process is impossible to predict. However, in my view the Swedish case can proceed concurrently with the proceedings in the UK."
Investigations against Assange began in 2010 following complaints of rape and other sexual assaults from two Swedish women. He denied he had committed any crimes and said the sex was consensual.
A case of alleged sexual misconduct against Assange, for which charges were filed in 2010, was dropped when the statute of limitations expired in 2017. Prosecutors announced at the same time that they were dropping the investigation into the rape allegation because there was no prospect of Assange leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
The 47-year-old Australian had sought asylum there in 2012, skipping bail to avoid extradition over the rape allegations.
But all that changed on April 11, when Assange was dramatically dragged from the embassy by British police after Ecuador revoked his asylum. On the same day, the Swedish lawyer representing the woman who made rape allegations against Assange called for the case to be reopened.
Last month, more than 70 British MPs signed a letter by Stella Creasy urging the home secretary and shadow home secretary to cooperate with a Swedish extradition request if the investigation were reopened.
In a press conference on Monday afternoon, Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the Swedish lawyer representing the woman who made the rape allegations, said it was "an important day".
“[My client] is very grateful, and also very hopeful that she’ll be able to get redress. She has previously lost faith in Swedish judicial system. Now she has regained faith," she said.
She added that her client had been afraid and worried that Assange would receive "special treatment".
"We will not back down until Mr Assange is indicted,” she said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Hazel is a news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Hazel Shearing at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.