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WikiLeaks’ Founder Assange Appears in U.K. Court on Rape Charge

Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks website that leaked thousands of classified U.S. military and State Department documents, appeared in a London court after being arrested on a Swedish warrant.

Assange, 39, appeared at City of Westminster Magistrate’s Court today before Judge Howard Riddle. Assange was arrested “by appointment” today at 9:30 a.m. after Swedish police requested the Australian’s detention.

WikiLeaks, created in 2006, has been the subject of a U.S. criminal probe since it posted thousands of classified documents on its website, including U.S. embassy communications and a military video of a July 2007 helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a Reuters television cameraman and his driver.

The arrest follows a European warrant on one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape allegedly committed in August 2010, the police’s extradition unit said today in an e-mailed statement. Mark Stephens, Assange’s U.K. lawyer, has said his client had consensual sex with the women.

The alleged crimes took place in Stockholm and Enkoeping while Assange was in Sweden lecturing about publishing classified U.S. military documents related to the war in Afghanistan.

Stephens, of the firm Finers Stephens Innocent LLP in London, who regularly represents several media organizations including Bloomberg News, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the arrest.

WikiLeaks receives confidential material and posts the information on the Internet “so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth,” the organization says on its website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at elarson4@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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