Sweden seeks to detain WikiLeaks founder

SWEDISH prosecutors said they will seek an international arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after a court approved their request yesterday to detain him for questioning in a rape case.

The Australian is suspected of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in an investigation that stems from his encounters with two women during a visit to Sweden in August. He has denied the allegations and insisted his sexual relations with the women were consensual.

His lawyers lashed out at Swedish investigators yesterday, saying Assange had offered to be questioned before he left Sweden and later in Britain, in person or by phone, videoconferencing, email, or to make a sworn statement.

“All of these offers have been flatly refused by a prosecutor who is abusing her powers by insisting that he return to Sweden,” said Mark Stephens, Assange’s British lawyer. He added that the allegations were “false and without basis”.

Assange, 39, a veteran computer hacker, founded WikiLeaks in 2006 and it has published almost 500,000 secret US documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Governments and some of Assange’s own 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. But Assange has urged US authorities to investigate possible human rights abuses by American troops during the two conflicts. He also has complained that he and his group are being targeted and persecuted by intelligence agencies from the US and elsewhere who are angry over the leaks of the secret military documents.

Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny said she sought the court order to detain Assange because “So far, we have not been able to meet with him to accomplish the interrogation.”

After the Stockholm District Court approved her request, she told The Associated Press she would seek Assange’s arrest through Interpol. His whereabouts were not immediately known.

Assange had considered setting up a base for WikiLeaks in Sweden, where some of its servers are located, but Swedish immigration authorities denied him a residence permit.

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