Europe

Wikileaks' Assange to face international arrest warrant

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at a UN panel, Geneva (5 November 2010)
Image caption Mr Assange denies all the allegations, which stem from a visit to Sweden in August

Sweden is to issue an international arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a rape case.

Prosecutors said they would seek the warrant after a court ruled he should be held for questioning. An initial inquiry had been dropped in August.

Mr Assange, an Australian who does not live in Sweden, says the allegations are part of a smear campaign.

Wikileaks has published confidential material relating to US military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Assange, 39, denies allegations of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion, which stem from a visit to Sweden in August.

A Stockholm prosecutor started an investigation shortly afterwards, but the case was dropped by the chief prosecutor a day later.

In September, Sweden's Director of Prosecution, Marianne Ny, reopened the investigation, but did not request Mr Assange's detention at the time.

'Complete innocence'

Ms Ny says Mr Assange needs to be questioned. "So far, we have not been able to meet with him to accomplish the interrogations," she says.

On Thursday the Stockholm District Court issued an order to detain him.

Ms Ny said that "to execute the court's decision, the next step is to issue an international arrest warrant".

Mr Assange's lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, said his client "maintains his complete innocence".

Mr Hurtig would not say where Mr Assange was but added: "Sooner or later he has to come to Sweden if this continues."

When the allegations first emerged, Mr Assange said their appearance - at a time when Wikileaks had been criticised for leaking Afghan war documents - was "deeply disturbing".

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