|Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks site has published secret US information related to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.|
WikiLeaks founder sought by Swedish
Elusive Assange faces questioning in rape inquiry
STOCKHOLM — The elusive Australian behind the biggest leak of US war documents in history is wanted by Sweden in a drawn-out rape probe, and could soon face an international arrest warrant curtailing his ability to jump from one country to another.
A Swedish court yesterday approved a motion to bring Julian Assange, 39, the founder of WikiLeaks, into custody for questioning. The decision paves the way for prosecutors to seek his arrest abroad through Interpol.
Assange, whose whereabouts are unknown, is suspected of rape, sexual molestation, and unlawful coercion. He has denied the allegations, which stem from his encounters with two women during a visit to Sweden in August.
His lawyer in Britain, Mark Stephens, said Assange had consensual sex with both women who then turned on him after becoming aware of each other’s relationships.
The irregular evolution of the case, in which prosecutors of different ranks have overruled each other, has sparked questions about Sweden’s legal system and conspiracy theories about intelligence agencies seeking to silence and discredit Assange and WikiLeaks.
The site has published almost 500,000 secret US documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Governments and some of Assange’s colleagues have denounced him for releasing Afghan documents that contained the names of Afghan intelligence sources for NATO forces, saying that could place the sources’ lives at risk.
After the sex charges first appeared in August, Assange was quoted by a Swedish tabloid as saying he’d been warned that the Pentagon planned to use dirty tricks to spoil things for WikiLeaks.
He later told Sweden’s TV4 he wasn’t pointing fingers at anyone. “That doesn’t mean that intelligence agencies are behind this, nor does it mean they are not behind it, nor does it mean once this has happened, for other reasons, that they are not capitalizing on it,’’ he said.
The team behind WikiLeaks is reportedly just a half-dozen people and casual volunteers. Assange has no permanent address and travels frequently — jumping from one friend’s place to the next, occasionally disappearing from public view for months at a time, only to reappear in the full glare of the cameras at packed news conferences to discuss his site’s latest disclosure.
Swedish prosecutors questioned Assange on Aug. 30. Marianne Ny, the director of public prosecution, said she sought yesterday’s court order to detain him because attempts to question him again had failed. “So far, we have not been able to meet with him to accomplish the interrogation,’’ she said. His lawyer lashed out, saying Assange had offered to be questioned in Sweden and in Britain, in person or by phone, videoconferencing, e-mail, or to make a sworn statement.