Swedish prosecutors press for Assange interview despite U.N. ruling

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a copy of a U.N. ruling as he makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish prosecutors said on Thursday they would renew an application to interview Julian Assange over a rape allegation, adding that their case was not affected by a U.N ruling that he was being arbitrarily detained.

Sweden has been stymied in its attempts to question the WikiLeaks founder since he took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over the allegation, which he denies.

Assange, 44, says he fears Sweden will extradite him to the United States, where authorities were enraged by his organization’s publishing of hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

“In relation to the (U.N.) report which was released last week, I can state that it does not change my earlier assessment in the preliminary investigation,” the prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Marianne Ny, said in the statement.

The U.N.’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said Assange should be allowed to leave Ecuador’s embassy in London without the threat of arrest by Britain and extradition to Sweden.

Britain and Sweden’s government’s rejected the U.N. ruling and said Assange had voluntarily chosen to stay in the embassy.

Sweden’s prosecution authority said Ny was working on a new application to interview Assange after the previous request was rejected by Ecuador in January.

“It is a scandal that Sweden ... openly defies the decision of an important U.N. body,” Per Samuelson, a Swedish lawyer representing Assange, told Reuters.

Assange, an Australian, denies allegations of a 2010 rape in Sweden, saying the accusation is a ploy that would eventually take him to the United States where a criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks is still open.

Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Andrew Heavens