If granted, the court order would be the first step in a process to have Assange extradited from Britain, where he is serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen in a police van after was arrested by British police outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Britain April 11, 2019.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen in a police van after was arrested by British police outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Britain April 11, 2019. (Reuters)

The Swedish prosecutor heading an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday filed a request with a local court for his detention in absentia.

Sweden reopened an investigation into the rape allegation last week. It was first made in 2010 but dropped in 2017 after Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Assange, who denies the accusation, was arrested in London last month after spending seven years inside the embassy.

"I request the District Court to detain Assange in his absence, on probable cause suspected for rape," Deputy Chief Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said in a statement on Monday.

She said she would issue a European arrest warrant for Assange to be surrendered to Sweden if the court decided to detain him.

Sweden's decision to reopen the rape investigation casts doubts on where Assange may eventually end up, with US authorities already seeking his extradition over conspiracy charges relating to one of the biggest ever leaks of classified information.

Assange left Sweden for Britain in September 2010. In November that year, a Stockholm court approved a request to detain Assange for questioning.

The Australian secret-spiller took refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was arrested by British police on April 11 after Ecuador revoked his political asylum, accusing him of everything from meddling in the nation's foreign affairs to poor hygiene.

Currently, Assange is in London's Belmarsh Prison serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail in 2012. He is also being held on a US extradition warrant for allegedly hacking into a Pentagon computer.

If there are competing extradition requests from Sweden and the United States, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid would be expected to have the final say in which claim takes priority.

Source: Reuters