WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be arrested on charges of rape and sexual molestation after a Swedish court approved an arrest warrant today, paving the way for an international search for the Australian.
“The background is that he must be interrogated in the investigation and we haven’t been able to reach him to perform these interrogations,” Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny said today in a statement before the hearing in Stockholm District Court.
Ny, who heads the Prosecution Authority Development Center in Gothenburg, Sweden, which handles appeals against prosecutor decisions on sex crimes, started her preliminary investigation on Sep. 1. Chief Prosecutor Eva Finne’s decision to drop a rape charge on Aug. 25 and reduce a molestation charge to a lesser one was appealed on Aug. 27 by a lawyer representing the two women who originally made the allegations.
The alleged crimes occurred while Assange was in Sweden giving lectures on WikiLeaks’ publishing of classified U.S. military documents related to the war in Afghanistan.
“Assange denies everything that the prosecutor alleges,” Bjoern Hurtig, Assange’s lawyer said today in an interview after the hearing. “We haven’t been able to settle on a date for an interrogation and apparently the prosecutor ran out of patience.”
Hurtig, who replaced Leif Silbersky as Assange’s counsel, declined to say if Assange was currently in Sweden saying he would speak to his client before deciding on an appeal to the warrant.
A court’s arrest ruling makes it possible for the prosecutor to request an international arrest warrant via European Union cooperation or Interpol, Tommy Kangasvieri at the National Bureau of Investigation said today in a telephone interview.
WikiLeaks.org receives confidential material that governments and businesses want to keep secret and posts the information on the Internet “so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth,” the organization says on its website.
Assange’s application for a Swedish residence and work permit, which would have allowed him to establish WikiLeaks as a Swedish publication protected by the constitution, was turned down by the Migration Board.
Hurtig said he was sure an international arrest warrant would be issued by police and that Assange would come to Sweden for questioning.
“Sooner or later he will have to come if they continue with their accusations,” he said. “Since I wasn’t handling the case from the beginning I don’t know if any new evidence has been added, but I think the existing evidence is weak.”
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