Europe

Sweden defends rape warrant against Wikileaks founder

Julian Assange in Stockholm, 14 August 2010 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Julian Assange said he had been warned about "dirty tricks"

Swedish prosecutors have defended their decision to issue and later withdraw an arrest warrant against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange over allegations of rape.

They said they had received additional information that led to the withdrawal.

Mr Assange said the incident could still damage Wikileaks.

The 39-year-old, whose site recently released secret US military documents on the war in Afghanistan, said he had been warned to expect "dirty tricks".

Swedish prosecutors said on Saturday that although they were no longer investigating rape claims, they were still looking into a separate allegation of molestation.

'Sex traps'

Mr Assange said in an interview with Sweden's Aftonbladet newspaper that he had never had sexual relations with anyone that were not consensual.

Defending its decision, the Swedish national prosecutors' office said in a statement that chief prosecutor Eva Finne, who withdrew the warrant, had "more information available to decide on Saturday than the duty prosecutor on Friday evening."

"A decision regarding restrictive measures, such as this, must always be re-evaluated in a preliminary inquiry," the statement said.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutors' office gave no other details, but said she was confident no errors had been made by either of the prosecutors handling the case.

Mr Assange dismissed the allegations soon after they emerged, saying that their timing was "deeply disturbing".

In his comments to Aftonbladet, he said: "I don't know who's behind this but we have been warned that for example the Pentagon plans to use dirty tricks to spoil things for us."

"I have also been warned about sex traps."

US authorities have strongly criticised the decision by Wikileaks to post more than 75,000 war logs online, saying it could endanger the lives of US soldiers and Afghan civilians.

They have not commented on the Swedish allegations.

Mr Assange has said Wikileaks is planning to release a further 15,000 Afghan war documents in coming weeks.

Wikileaks relies on servers in various different countries including Sweden. Mr Assange was in Sweden last week to talk about the site's activities.

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