London: Swedish officials today questioned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for over four years, over sexual assault charges.
The 45-year-old Australian national has been living in the embassy for more than four years after he was granted political asylum by Ecuador amid fears he will be extradited to the US and questioned over the release of 500,000 secret military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by his controversial website.
Ecuadorean foreign minister Guillaume Long said, "This is something that Ecuador has been inviting the Swedish prosecutors to do ever since we granted asylum to Mr Assange in 2012.
"There was no need for the Swedish authorities to delay for over 1,000 days before agreeing to carry out this interview, given that the Swedish authorities regularly question people in Britain and received permission to do so on more than 40 occasions in recent years," he said.
After years of stalemate, representatives from the Swedish prosecutor's office and Swedish police officers agreed to be present while Assange is questioned by an Ecuadorian official based on a previously approved set of questions.
A DNA sample will also be taken from Assange if he gives his consent.
The results of the interview will be transcribed and reported from Ecuador to the Swedish prosecutors in a written statement.
After this report, the prosecutors will take a view on the continuation of the investigation.
Swedish chief prosecutor Ingrid Isgren was photographed entering the embassy but it was made clear that she would not be giving any press interviews during her stay in London.
A statement on behalf of the Swedish prosecutors said: "As the investigation is ongoing, it is subject to confidentiality. This confidentiality also applies according to Ecuadorean legislation for the investigative measures conducted at the embassy.
Therefore, the prosecutors cannot provide information concerning details of the investigation after the interview".
Today's interview at the embassy follows a long-drawn legal and diplomatic wrangle between Ecuador and Sweden before prosecutors consented to interview Assange in London, and then until the two sides agreed arrangements.
Assange denies Sweden's allegation of rape dating back over six years.
The Swedes will be allowed to ask for clarification of Assange's responses during the questioning, but not put any fresh questions.