Three of four sex crimes allegations against Julian Assange, the man behind the WikiLeaks website, are about to expire.
The Australian national is wanted for questioning in Sweden regarding the allegations and has been avoiding extradition by hiding out in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for three years.
Three of the accusations, including unlawful coercion and sexual molestation, which stem from encounters with two women in Sweden in 2010, have a five-year statute of limitations and will expire by Aug. 18. The fourth allegation, rape, will not expire until 2020.
Although Assange has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, he has refused to return to Stockholm for questioning, out of fear, he says, that he will be extradited to the U.S. where he could be put on trial over the publication of classified government and military documents on the WikiLeaks website five years ago.
According to The Associated Press, Sweden said Wednesday that it is in talks with Ecuador to interview Assange in London. Sweden had demanded that Assange return there to be questioned, but in March, officials reversed this decision and in June filed a request with Ecuador to interview Assange at the embassy. Now, with the expiration date on three of the charges fast approaching, Swedish prosecutors are pushing to speak with Assange as charges cannot be formally filed without questioning the accused.
Jen Robinson, a member of Assange’s legal team, says this standoff could have been avoided had Swedish officials initially offered to interview Assange in London.
According to a report published in The Independent in February, Assange’s stay in the Ecuadorean Embassy is estimated to have cost U.K. taxpayers some 10 million pounds (roughly $15.6 million today), the bulk of the costs attributed to policing and security around the embassy.
Britain, Sweden and Ecuador are attempting to resolve the standoff, but should Swedish officials fail to interview Assange by the time the three accusations expire, they may choose to wholly abandon the prosecution.