This is strange. While people across the world are calling for the head of Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, today Interpol issued a warrant for his arrest. But not because of the leaks issued by his website, but for Sex Crimes
On 20 August 2010, an investigation was opened against Assange in Sweden in connection with an allegation that he had raped a woman in Enköping on the weekend of 14 August after a seminar, and two days later had sexually harassed a second woman he had been staying with in Stockholm.Within 24 hours of the investigation opening, prosecutors withdrew the warrant to arrest him saying the accusations against him lacked substance.
But on September a senior Swedish prosecutor re-opened the rape investigation saying new information had come in. The woman’s lawyer, Claes Borgström, a Swedish politician, had earlier appealed against the decision not to proceed. As you would expect, Assange has said that the accusation against him is a “set-up” arranged by the enemies of WikiLeaks.
On November 18th , Stockholm District Court approved a request to detain Assange for questioning on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation, and unlawful coercion. Director of Public Prosecutions Marianne Ny, who had reopened the investigation in September, said she had requested the warrant because, “so far, we have not been able to meet with him to accomplish the interrogation.”
Two days later, on November 20th, Sweden’s National Criminal Police force issued an international arrest warrant for Assange via Interpol; an EU arrest warrant was issued through the Schengen Information System. “We made sure that all the police forces in the world would see it”, a spokesman for the National Criminal Police said.
On 24 November 2010, Assange lost an appeal against his detention, and thus remains under arrest in absentia and under an arrest warrant. The Svea Court of Appeal rejected his appeal and upheld the decision to remand him by the Stockholm district court. Yesterday, Assange appealed to the Supreme Court of Sweden.
His answer came today with this post on the Interpol website
Dated November 30th, the entry reads: “sex crimes” and says the warrant has been issued by the international public prosecution office in Gothenburg, Sweden. “If you have any information contact your national or local police.” It reads: “Wanted: Assange, Julian Paul,” and gives his birthplace as Townsville, Australia.
Assange strongly denies any wrongdoing but admits having unprotected but consensual encounters with two women during a visit to Sweden in August.
Mark Stephens, his London-based lawyer, has described the allegations as “false and without basis”, adding that they amount to persecution as part of a cynical smear campaign.
Nonetheless, the Swedes appear determined to force Assange back to Sweden for questioning. Stockholm’s director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, said last month: “So far, we have not been able to meet with him to accomplish the interrogation.”
Assange contests this too. But if he declines to return to Sweden voluntarily, and the UK decides to enforce Sweden’s arrest warrant, things may get tricky. Some friends believe Assange’s best strategy is not to go to ground but to get on a plane to Sweden and face down his accusers.
It will be interesting to see if he is questioned for the rapes or once arrested will be extradited to the US.