In Brief

Julian Assange sex claims set to expire: what happens next?

Sweden and Ecuador agree to talks, but Wikileaks founder unlikely to leave the embassy any time soon

Julian Assange is set to escape sexual assault charges in Sweden as the time limit for prosecution under Swedish law expires next week.

The Wikileaks founder stands accused of assaulting two women in 2010 and is wanted for questioning by the Swedish authorities. He denies the claims and has not been charged.

It is now unlikely he ever will be, as the statute of limitations on one allegation of unlawful coercion and two of sexual molestation expires within the next seven days. However, an allegation of rape will not expire until 2020.

Assange remains in the Ecuadorian embassy in London after seeking political asylum there in June, 2012. He has refused to return to Sweden for questioning, fearing that he will be extradited to the US to face charges of espionage over the release of thousands of classified diplomatic and military cables.

The lawyer representing one of Assange's alleged victims told The Times that his client felt a "sense of injustice" that he would never face questioning.

What happens next?

Sweden and Ecuador have finally agreed to hold talks about questioning Assange over the alleged sex crimes in an effort to end the stand-off, The Guardian reports.

Swedish authorities have reportedly agreed to enter into negotiations that could see Assange interviewed inside the embassy.

"The coming discussions will show if this is a way forward," said Cecilia Riddselius, the senior justice ministry official responsible for the case.

However, Sweden admits there is little chance of reaching an agreement before the statute of limitations expires on three of the alleged offences.

 Asked if Assange would remain in the embassy until the time limit expired on the rape allegation in 2020, a Wikileaks spokesperson said: "It would be absolutely ridiculous if that were to be the case. It's come to a time to end this. That case should be dropped as well."

The British government has made it clear that it will arrest Assange if he steps outside of the Knightsbridge building and immediately extradite him back to Sweden. The Metropolitan police have spent an estimated £12m guarding the embassy since 2012.

"We are frustrated that the interview has not yet taken place," the Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said. "This remains a deeply unsatisfactory and costly situation."

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