Stockholm (AFP) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, after Sweden issued him with an arrest warrant over a 2010 rape accusation.
The Australian has long demanded that it be lifted, fearing that if he returns to Stockholm he will be extradited to the United States to face charges over secret documents leaked by his organisation.
On Friday, a Swedish court will rule on the warrant for the eighth time. All previous appeals have gone against Assange.
During a trip to Stockholm for a series of conferences, Assange is accused of having sex with a WikiLeaks supporter in her thirties without a condom while she was asleep on 17 August, 2010.
The statute of limitations on the rape allegation, which could lead to up to four years in prison, expires in August 2020.
An accusation of sexual misconduct by a second woman in the Swedish capital a few days earlier reached its statute of limitations in 2015.
Assange denies all allegations, insisting that the women gave their consent and that there is a political motivation for the investigations.
In November 2010, Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny issued a European arrest warrant for Assange to bring him back to the country for questioning.
He was arrested by British police on December 7 that year. On June 19, 2012, having failed in every attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden, the former hacker sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
The small South American nation offers protection to people sought by the United States to face charges for crimes "of a political nature".
Former National Security Agency intelligence contractor Edward Snowden requested political asylum there after leaking thousands of classified documents revealing vast US surveillance.
Since entering the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange has categorically refused to travel to Sweden. In March 2015, Swedish judges agreed to allow questioning to take place in London -- fearing limitations and the charges being dropped.
A first meeting is due to take place in London on October 17 but there is no indication he will be formally questioned that day.
AFTER THE RULING
Whether the Swedish court decides to maintain or lift the warrant will have little immediate effect on Assange's situation.
If it is lifted, prosecutors are likely to appeal to the Supreme Court, which would not announce a ruling for several months. If it is maintained, Assange's lawyers will similarly launch an appeal.
And even if the Swedish warrant is ultimately lifted, the 45-year-old is liable to arrest in London for having evaded justice after his appeals against extradition were rejected, a spokesman for the British police said Thursday.