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A Swedish court ordered the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on suspicion of rape and sexual molestation Thursday and an international warrant will be issued for him, a judge and prosecutor said.
"It has been decided that he be detained in absentia," Stockholm district court judge Alan Camitz told AFP.
Assange was sought on allegations of "probable cause suspected of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion," said prosecutor Marianne Ny, who had requested his detention.
To "execute the court?s decision, the next step is to issue an international arrest warrant," she said in a statement. This would be done soon through Interpol, she said.
Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has strongly denied the charges and hinted that they could be part of a "smear campaign" against Wikileaks for publishing classified US documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His British attorney Mark Stephens said he planned to challenge the decision to arrest him.
Ny, the head of Swedish department that oversees prosecution of sex crimes, told AFP: "I requested his arrest so we could carry out an interrogation with Assange."
A warrant was first issued for Assange's arrest on August 20 by another prosecutor on suspicion he had raped one woman and sexually molested another, but the warrant was withdrawn just hours later.
Ny reopened the rape investigation on September 1 but did not request his detention, making it possible for him to leave Sweden.
"We have exhausted all the normal procedures for getting an interrogation (and) this investigation has gotten to a point where it is not possible to go further without interrogating Assange himself," Ny said.
She said she did not know where the former hacker was and had no idea how to get in touch with him.
Stephens, his lawyer, said Assange was in London earlier Thursday but refused to disclose his current whereabouts.
He said Thursday's hearing was the first time Assange's lawyers had heard the full details of the charges since the allegations were made public in August.
"Both the prosecutor and the defence agree that it was an incident of consensual sex where the condom broke. They are saying that amounts to rape, we are saying it doesn't," he added.
Assange's lawyer in Sweden, Bjoern Hurtig, said the prosecutor's petition was "exaggerated" and "out of proportion."
He stressed that his client "is absolutely prepared to come to Sweden (and) wants to cooperate," and had even proposed some dates that would work for him.
Ny said however she was not aware of any offers from Assange to come to Sweden for interrogation.
"I would like to stress that the district court shared our opinion that there is flight risk in this case," she said.
Assange admitted in a September interview with AFP that he had met the two women at the centre of the allegations, whose names have not officially been made public, but refused then to say if he had sex with either of them.
The women's lawyer, Claes Borgstroem, said Thursday he was relieved that Ny had requested Assange's arrest.
"Finally. This should have been done earlier," he told the TT news agency.
Two days before the allegations against Assange were made public in August, he had applied for a work and residency permit in Sweden, where some of Wikileaks' servers are located, but his application was turned down on October 18.
WikiLeaks last month published an unprecedented 400,000 classified US documents on the Iraq war and posted 77,000 secret US files on the Afghan conflict in July.
On the morning of 21 August 2010, my client, Julian Assange, read in the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen that there was a warrant out for his arrest relating to allegations of “rape” involving two Swedish women.
However, even the substance of the allegations, as revealed to the press through unauthorized disclosures do not constitute what any advanced legal system considers to be rape; as various media outlets have reported “the basis for the rape charge” purely seems to constitute a post-facto dispute over consensual, but unprotected sex days after the event. Both women have declared that they had consensual sexual relations with our client and that they continued to instigate friendly contact well after the alleged incidents. Only after the women became aware of each other’s relationships with Mr. Assange did they make their allegations against him.
The warrant for his arrest was rightly withdrawn within 24 hours by Chief prosecutor Eva Finne, who found that there was no “reason to suspect that he has committed rape." Yet his name had already been deliberately and unlawfully disclosed to the press by Swedish authorities. The “rape” story was carried around the world and has caused Mr. Assange and his organization irreparable harm.
Eva Finne’s decision to drop the “rape" investigation was reversed after the intervention of a political figure, Claes Borgstrom, who is now acting for the women. The case was given to a specific prosecutor, Marianne Ny.
The only way the accused and his lawyers have been able to discover any substantive information regarding the investigation against him has been through the media Over the last three months, despite numerous demands, neither Mr. Assange, nor his legal counsel has received a single word in writing from the Swedish authorities relating to the allegations; a clear contravention to Article 6 of the European Convention, which states that every accused must “be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him”. The actions by the Swedish authorities constitute a blatant and deliberate disregard for his rights under the Convention.
We are now concerned that prosecutor Marianne Ny intends to apply for an arrest warrant in an effort to have Mr. Assange forcibly taken to Sweden for preliminary questioning. Despite his right to silence, my client has repeatedly offered to be interviewed, first in Sweden, and then in the UK (including at the Swedish Embassy), either in person or by telephone, videoconferencing or email and he has also offered to make a sworn statement on affidavit. All of these offers have been flatly refused by a prosecutor who is abusing her powers by insisting that he return to Sweden at his own expense to be subjected to another media circus that she will orchestrate. Pursuing a warrant in this circumstance is entirely unnecessary and disproportionate. This action is in contravention both of European Conventions and makes a mockery of arrangements between Sweden and the United Kingdom designed to deal with just such situations. This behavior is not a prosecution, but a persecution. Before leaving Sweden Mr. Assange asked to be interviewed by the prosecution on several occasions in relation to the allegations, staying over a month in Stockholm, at considerable expense and despite many engagements elsewhere, in order to clear his name. Eventually the prosecution told his Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig that he was free to leave the country, without interview, which he did.
Our client has always maintained his innocence. The allegations against him are false and without basis. As a result of these false allegations and bizarre legal interpretations our client now has his name and reputation besmirched. Thousands of news articles and 3.6million web pages now contain his name and the word “rape”. Indeed, three out of four webpages that mention Mr. Assange’s name also now mention the word “rape”—a direct result of incompetent and malicious behavior by Swedish government prosecutors. My client is now in the extraordinary position that, despite his innocence, and despite never having been charged, and despite never receiving a single piece of paper about the allegations against him, one in ten Internet references to the word “rape” also include his name. Every day that this flawed investigation continues the damages to his reputation are compounded.
[Editorial Note to all hackers, whistleblower sites and digital warriors for Peace, Truth and Justice:
In view of the recent assaults on Mr Assange's character -- clearly originating from the powerful criminal forces he has helped to expose -- we need hardly articulate the constant need for ANONYMITY. However, it would seem prudent at this time to reiterate one of our most important codes, maintaining ANONYMITY!
It is a given that anonymity in our work is one of our greatest strengths. In most circumstances to forego this protection would be a monumental folly, however, some circumstances require a public face in order to further the cause for REAL Freedom, Democracy, Liberty and the rule of LAW.
It is clear that Mr Assange is no fool and that he knowingly (fully cognisant of the consequences) became the public face for the most important revelation and exposé in modern history!
For his brave gesture and personal sacrifice all men and women of conscience should rally behind Julian Assange and support him in every way possible. It is clear that he is motivated by noble rather than selfish reasons and that he has sacrificed much to the cause of Liberty, Representative Democracy and the REAL rule of LAW; notwithstanding the very loud message for journalistic INTEGRITY, which today is sorely lacking in the mass media.
We therefore continue to support Mr Assange in his fight for Truth and the rule of Law.
To all the crewz and digital warriors -- cognisant of the fact that we 'own the wire' -- we salute you!
To the criminal cabals that have hijacked our democracies know this and understand it well, we shall never relent in our struggle until ALL corrupt, criminal cabals have been fully exposed and the culpable held accountable.