Julian Assange quizzed over Swedish sex allegation
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has finally been questioned in the presence of Swedish officials about a sex allegation.
Sweden's assistant prosecutor Ingrid Isgren and police inspector Cecilia Redell were present at the interview inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Questions supplied by Swedish officials were put by an Ecuador government representative to Mr Assange, who has always denied the allegation.
He has been living inside the embassy for over four years, believing that if he leaves, he will be extradited to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks.
The results of the interview will be 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.
Ecuador's UK ambassador Carlos Ortiz was in the embassy during the interview, as well as lawyers for Mr Assange.
Ms Isgren faced a battery of photographers as she arrived at the embassy in Knightsbridge, and left four hours later, with up to 20 police officers holding back reporters, photographers and TV crews from across the world.
She made no comment and is not expected to say anything until well after the questioning is finished.
WikiLeaks tweeted: " After UN & court findings condemning 6 years of abuses by Sweden against Assange, Sweden finally takes his statement for the first time ever."
A small group of supporters stood outside the embassy, holding up banners calling for the WikiLeaks founder to be freed.
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 Ecuadorian legislation for the investigative measures conducted at the embassy. Therefore, the prosecutors cannot provide information concerning details of the investigation after the interview."
Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny, who is responsible for the investigation, said: "I welcome the fact that the investigation can now move forward via an interview with the suspect."
As the interview got under way, Mr Assange's cat sat in a window looking out at the scenes in front of him, later returning wearing a small collar and tie.
The cat has its own Twitter feed, which says it lives with Mr Assange and is "interested in counter-purrveillance".
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell joined Assange supporters, saying he hoped the questioning would lead to the WikiLeaks founder being freed.
"WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have performed an important public service in exposing government deception and human rights abuses," he said.
"We are appalled it has taken the Swedish prosecutors six years to come and interview him. Julian has always said he is willing to meet them so why has it taken so long?
"It is clear that the Swedish prosecutor has seriously mishandled the case and subjected Julian to unreasonable delays that have denied his right to swift and fair justice.
"We have always said Julian Assange should answer the serious sex allegations but he has made it clear he is willing to answer the allegations."
Emma Butlin is part of a group which has been holding vigils outside the embassy three or four days a week since Mr Assange arrived more than four years ago.
She said support for Mr Assange remained strong.
Sources said the questioning of Mr Assange could take up to three days.
WikiLeaks said in a statement that after six years of offering his statement to the Swedish authorities, Mr Assange has finally been afforded the opportunity to do so.
It continued: "There have been numerous irregularities in Sweden's preliminary investigation, which the UN has described as "excessive and unnecessary".
"Sweden's failure to progress the preliminary investigation until now has resulted in a gross breach of Mr Assange's right to be presumed innocent and has fatally harmed his ability to meaningfully defend himself.
"Unfortunately, the irregularities with procedure have continued today. Mr Assange's Swedish counsel, Per Samuelson, was not notified or summoned to attend the procedure by the relevant prosecution authorities, despite the fact that the process concerns a preliminary investigation in Sweden under Swedish law in the presence of a Swedish prosecutor. "
Mr Assange's Swedish defence counsel had travelled to London in the hope of being able to attend. In spite of the fact that Mr Assange's Ecuadorian counsel, Carlos Poveda Moreno, raised concern that Mr Samuelson was not present at the start of the procedure, the authorities in charge proceeded anyway.
"This clear breach of process did not stop Mr Assange cooperating fully. Mr Assange felt compelled to participate even with these problems.
"For the first time since August 2010, Mr Assange was finally able to give his statement in relation to this allegation. He has done so in part to ensure the Swedish authorities have no further excuse not to discontinue their preliminary investigation.
"In the presence of Swedish prosecutors, but without his Swedish defence counsel, he offered his full cooperation throughout the process. These irregularities will be raised in a formal setting in the near future."