Updated at 11.40am

Swedish prosecutors on Monday issued a formal request to hold Julian Assange, currently imprisoned in Britain, on suspicion of rape - a first step towards seeking his extradition to Sweden.

Swedish deputy director of public prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson, said in a statement she had filed a request with the Uppsala district court to have Assange detained in his absence on suspicion of rape.

Detaining someone in their absence is a standard part of Swedish legal procedure if a suspect is outside the country or cannot be located. 

The request follows last week's reopening of a 2010 rape investigation, and Persson added that once the court had granted the request, she would then ask British authorities to transfer Assange to Sweden.

"If the court decides to detain him, I will issue a European Arrest Warrant concerning surrender to Sweden," Persson said.

The Australian whistleblower, who holed himself up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London for seven years to avoid a British extradition order to Sweden, was arrested by British police on April 11 after Ecuador gave him up.

A London court sentenced him on May 1 to 50 weeks in jail for breaching the British order.

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