Interpol, the international police organization, at the request of a Swedish court looking into alleged sex crimes from earlier this year, has put WikiLeaks founder on its most-wanted listed.
The notice, issued earlier today, targets Julian Paul Assange, listed as a 39-year-old male from Townsville, Australia, for sex crimes. You can view the Interpol arrest warrant here.
The Stockholm Criminal Court two weeks ago issued an international arrest warrant for Assange on probable cause, saying he is suspected of rape, sexual molestation and illegal use of force in August incidents. Assange could be sentenced to at least two years in prison if convicted, according to the document.
The warrant stems from accusations of sexual assault made earlier this year by two women he met in Sweden during a WikiLeaks-related trip. When the more serious charge of rape was dropped, he called the accusions ‘a smear campaign.’
He has strenuously denied the charges and has on several occasions terminated interviews when the subject is raised. His lawyer in the U.K., Mark Stephens, has said that Assange had consensual sexual relationships with two women.
“Only after the women became aware of each other’s relationships with Mr. Assange did they make their allegations against him,” lawyer Mark Stephens said in the statement.
Stephens also said neither he nor Assange “have ever received a single written word, at any time, in any form, from Swedish authorities on the Swedish investigation against our client.”
However, Sweden asked Interpol to post a “Red Notice” after a judge approved a motion to bring him into custody. The “Red Notice” is not an international arrest warrant.
It is an advisory and request, issued to 188 member countries “to assist the national police forces in identifying or locating those persons with a view to their arrest and extradition,” according to Interpol.
The Swedish court ordered Assange formally arrested in his absence, which requires Swedish authorities anywhere in the world to detain Assange if they come across him. Sweden’s director of prosecutions, Marianne Ny, had requested the arrest-in-absence.
“The background is that he has to be heard in this investigation and we haven’t been able to get a hold of him to question him,” Ny said at the time.
Assange faces five counts that appear related to two incidents, according to the request Ny filed with the court. He faces one count of rape and one count of sexual molestation related to an instance around August 17 in Enkoping, just outside Stockholm.
He then faces two counts of sexual molestation between August 13 and 18 in Stockholm, and one count of illegal use of force between August 13 and 14, also in the capital.
Assange, an Australian, was rejected for permanent residency in Sweden in October. Swedish Migration Board official Gunilla Wikstrom said his application failed to fulfill all the requirements but declined to give details.
On Monday, Ecuador invited Assange to come to Quito to discuss documents leaked on the site relating to Ecuador and other Latin American countries, according to a statement from the country’s foreign ministry. The ministry also offered to process a request for residency “in accordance with the country’s current laws.”
Friends said earlier that Assange was in a buoyant mood, however, despite the palpable fury emanating from Washington over the decision by WikiLeaks to start publishing more than a quarter of a million mainly classified US cables.
He was said to be at a secret location somewhere outside London, along with fellow hackers and WikiLeaks enthusiasts.
In contrast to previous WikiLeaks releases, Assange has, on this occasion, kept a relatively low profile. His attempt to give an interview to Sky News via Skype was thwarted today by a faulty internet connection.
But he was able to give an interview to Time magazine in which he called for Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, to resign.
“She should resign, if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations, in violation of the international covenants to which the US has signed up. Yes, she should resign over that,” he said.
The US attorney general, Eric Holder, announced yesterday that the justice department and Pentagon are conducting “an active, ongoing criminal investigation” into the latest Assange-facilitated leak under Washington’s Espionage Act.
It was not immediately clear whether Holder was referring to Bradley Manning, the dissident US private suspected of being the original source of the leak, or Assange. The inquiry by US federal authorities is made tricky by Assange’s citizenship and the antediluvian nature of the law’s pre-internet-era 1917 statutes.
According to the Washington Post, no charges against anyone from WikiLeaks are imminent. But asked how the US could prosecute Assange, a non-US citizen, Holder struck an ominous note. “Let me be clear. This is not sabre-rattling,” he said, vowing to swiftly “close the gaps” in current US legislation.
WikiLeaks’ Founder Julian Assange is at the center of media and political attention for WikiLeaks’ recent leak of the Afghan War Diaries and sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables.
The result has been an unprecedented look into U.S. diplomacy, including discussions surrounding Pakistan relations, a plan of action for North Korea, and the hacking of Google’s servers by China’s Politburo that caused an international uproar. [via The Telegraph (UK), CNN and The Guardian (UK)]