News / Europe

Swedish Prosecutors Ask for Arrest Warrant for WikiLeaks founder

Founder of the WikiLeaks website, Julian Assange, speaks during a press conference in London, 23 Oct 2010
Founder of the WikiLeaks website, Julian Assange, speaks during a press conference in London, 23 Oct 2010
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Jennifer Glasse

Swedish prosecutors are asking for an international arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in connection with rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion allegations. His London-based lawyer says Assange is innocent and had repeatedly offered to cooperate with prosecutors.  

Swedish prosecutors want an international arrest warrant for Australian Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. He is wanted for questioning in connection with rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion allegations.  His London-based lawyer Mark Stephens says Assange has not been charged with anything and called the prosecutors' actions "exceptional and unusual." Stephens says his client offered to testify while in Sweden earlier this year, at the Swedish embassy in London and by phone, videoconference or on paper.

"He has sought to cooperate and assist, he is very keen and anxious to vindicate his name and reputation but the prosecutor has taken a quite exotic course, unique in my 30 years of legal practice," said Stephens.

Stephens says there are avenues of appeal that Assange's Swedish lawyers might pursue.

"He has nothing to hide," he said. "He is innocent and he is very keen to demonstrate that he is innocent because his name has been besmirched across the internet through selective leaking of highly prejudicial material."

Assange has denied the allegations and has called them part of a smear campaign, possibly in retribution for his organization's release of tens of thousands of classified U.S. government  documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Last month here in London Assange described why WikiLeaks posts documents on the internet.

"In our release of our 400,000 documents about the Iraq war, the intimate detail of that war from the U.S. perspective, we hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war and which has continued on since the war officially concluded," said Assange.

Stephens says he does not know if there is political motivation behind the charges, but that it is clear that Assange has enemies.

"We are aware of course from public statements that over 160 people at the Pentagon are targeting Julian Assange at the moment, an undisclosed number at the National Security Agency,  the NSA  more at GCHQ and other security services around the world," he said.

Stephens says it is a complex case.

"There are more questions about this case than there are answers at this stage," said Stephens.

Assange  does not publicize his whereabouts, and was recently denied residency in Sweden which has strong laws protecting journalists and publishers.  Stephens says Assange lives a discreet life because of the nature of what he does.

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