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Brits weigh extraditing Julian Assange to Sweden before window expires on rape claim

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn sided Saturday with fellow Labour Party members who support potentially extraditing Julian Assange to Sweden, where the recently arrested WikiLeaks publisher was wanted for years by authorities investigating allegations of sexual assault.

“If there are allegations which Julian Assange needs to answer of sexual issues, sexual attacks that may or may not have taken place in Sweden, then it’s a matter for the courts to decide,” said Mr. Corbyn, British outlets reported.

Mr. Corbyn made the remark after more than 70 members of the U.K. Parliament, mostly fellow Labour Party politicians, raised the possibility of extraditing Mr. Assange to Sweden in a letter sent to Home Secretary Sajid Javid after the WikiLeaks publisher was arrested this week at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

“We are writing to request that you do everything you can to champion action that will ensure Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden in the event Sweden make an extradition request,” they wrote Mr. Javid. “We urge you to stand with the victims of sexual violence and seek to ensure the case against Mr. Assange can now be properly investigated.”

Swedish authorities began investigating allegations of sexual assault involving Mr. Assange, an Australian, after he traveled to Stockholm in 2010, but he refused to return to discuss the case with investigators by arguing that he risked being extradited to the U.S. and put on trial for publishing classified government material online through WikiLeaks.

Mr. Assange sought refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy while under house arrest for Swedish case in 2012 and received asylum within weeks, essentially shielding him from the possibility of foreign prosecution prior to being ejected after nearly seven years Thursday and promptly arrested by British police both for breaching bail and in relation to a U.S. extradition request.

Swedish investigators agreed in 2016 to have an Ecuadorian prosecutor question Mr. Assange inside the embassy, and prosecutors effectively abandoned their probe in 2017. The statute of limitations will not expire until August 2020, however, and the Swedish Prosecution Authority announced following Mr. Assange’s arrest this week that authorities are examining the case “in order to determine how to proceed.”

Mr. Corbyn was poised to discuss the possibility of extraditing Mr. Assange to Sweden after denouncing the U.S. request Friday.

“My objection was to his extradition to the United States because I do believe that WikiLeaks told us the truth about what was actually happening in Afghanistan and in Iraq,” Mr. Corbyn said Saturday, Sky News and BBC both reported.

The Justice Department has charged Mr. Assange with one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking related to conduct that allegedly occurred in 2010 involving himself and convicted WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst who admittedly supplied the website with a trove of classified diplomatic and military documents. Mr. Assange allegedly attempted to help Manning bypass security mechanisms meant to safeguard Department of Defense computers, according to prosecutors.

Mr. Assange, 47, has denied allegations of sexual assault and routinely criticized the U.S. probe into WikiLeaks in the years preceding his arrest. An extradition hearing for the U.S. case has been set for next month.

Manning, 31, was convicted of computer hacking, theft and espionage during a military trial that concluded in 2013. She served roughly seven years in prison prior to having most of her sentence commuted by former President Barack Obama in 2017. She was found in contempt last month for refusing to cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating WikiLeaks and remains jailed.

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