A possible breakthrough has emerged in the deadlocked case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange which is set to lead to him being questioned by Swedish authorities while he remains inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Ecuador has reached a deal with Sweden which is due to be formalised later this week, paving the way for Mr Assange to be seen by Swedish prosecutors without him having to leave the embassy building.
He has been living in the embassy for over three years and has been granted political asylum by the Ecuador government.
He is wanted for questioning in Sweden over a sex allegation, which he has always denied, but he says he fears subsequently being transported to the US to be quizzed over the activities of WikiLeaks if he goes to Sweden.
Ecuador said the agreement between Quito and Stockholm will ease "judicial procedures such as the questioning of Mr Assange", adding: "The agreement, without any doubt, is a tool that strengthens bilateral relations and facilitates, for example, the execution of such legal actions as the questioning of Mr Assange, isolated in the Ecuadorean embassy in London."
Baltasar Garzon, co-ordinator of Mr Assange's international legal defence team, said: "We are glad that Ecuador and Sweden have reached an agreement for judicial co-operation. The most important thing now is that it must provide the appropriate legal guarantees.
"Julian Assange's rights need to be respected by Sweden and the United Kingdom. These countries have failed to do so until now. Julian Assange's only demands are that his fundamental rights are acknowledged and respected, including the asylum granted to him by Ecuador.
“Julian Assange has consistently demonstrated his willingness to co-operate during all this time. However, Julian Assange’s legal defence team has taken his case to the relevant international bodies to secure recognition that his humanitarian conditions and fundamental rights have been violated.
“Once again, we express our gratitude to Ecuador for continuing its efforts to safeguard the integrity of his legal and personal safety.”
It is unlikely Mr Assange will be questioned until the new year, but his friends said it was a positive sign, pointing out he has been pressing to be interviewed for years.
He was initially arrested in the UK just over five years ago. In August, Swedish prosecutors announced they were dropping investigations into two allegations, leaving one allegation, which will expire in 2020 under Swedish law.