Governments around the world must not “shoot the messenger” by attacking disclosures by WikiLeaks, Julian Assange said today.
Earlier today, Assange was arrested by officers from Scotland Yard’s extradition unit in the UK.
The 39-year-old Australian was held when he attended a central London police station by appointment.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Officers from the Metropolitan Police Extradition Unit have this morning arrested Julian Assange on behalf of the Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape.
“Julian Assange, 39, was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant by appointment at a London police station at 9.30am.
“He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010.
“Assange is due to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court today.”
Assange, who strongly denies the accusation of rape, was mobbed by photographers as he arrived at court with his lawyer Mark Stephens and the rest of his legal team.
He is due to appear before District Judge Caroline Tubbs in court one at 2pm, court staff said.
Speaking outside court, Mr Stephens said his client is “fine”.
Asked about the meeting with police, he replied: “It was very cordial. They have verified his identity. They are satisfied he is the real Julian Assange and we are ready to go into court.”
A WikiLeaks spokesman said the arrest will not disrupt the release of further leaked cables tonight.
Speaking via Twitter, he said: “Today’s actions against our editor-in-chief Julian Assange won’t affect our operations: we will release more cables tonight as normal.”
Supporters of Mr Assange were told to protest against censorship outside the Horseferry Road court house on several websites.
The former computer hacker said his whistle-blowing website deserves protection and has not cost a single life despite the claims of critics.
Writing for The Australian newspaper, Mr Assange quoted its founder, Rupert Murdoch, as once saying the truth will inevitably win over secrecy.
He said: “Nearly a century later, WikiLeaks is also fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.”
Mr Assange said WikiLeaks has coined “scientific journalism” that allows readers to study the original evidence for themselves.
He added: “Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest.
“WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.”
The campaigner denied he is anti-war, but said Governments must tell the truth about their reasons for fighting.
He claimed the United States, supported by its “acolytes”, has attacked WikiLeaks instead of other media groups because it is “young and small”.
Branding the website “underdogs”, he accused Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard of “disgraceful pandering” to the Americans.
He said: “The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn’t want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings.”
Mr Assange highlighted some of the most high-profile revelations made by his website over the last week.
He added: “The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.”