Wikileaks' Julian Assange to fight Swedish allegations

Julian Assange, file pic Mr Assange has dismissed allegations against him as a smear campaign

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will fight attempts to take him to Sweden to face rape allegations, his lawyer said.

Mark Stephens told the BBC that legal moves against his client seemed to be a "political stunt" by a state that allowed US rendition flights.

He warned Wikileaks could release more secrets in a bid to protect itself.

A Swedish arrest warrant for Mr Assange was issued on Thursday. It comes amid the phased Wikileaks release of some 250,000 US diplomatic secret messages.

The warrant to interview the journalist - thought currently to be in the UK - concerns alleged sexual crimes during a visit to Sweden in August.

But Mr Stephens told the BBC's Andrew Marr that the entire case against Mr Assange had been dropped by Sweden's chief prosecutor in September.

He said it was only "after the intervention of a Swedish politician" that a new prosecutor in Gothenburg - not Stockholm, where his client and two women had been - began a new case.

It resulted in the current warrants, and an Interpol notice being issued. His client denies the allegations.

Mr Stephens said: "It does seem to be a political stunt.

Julian Assange

  • Born Queensland, Australia, 1971
  • Convicted in early 1990s in Australia of computer hacking and fined
  • Co-wrote influential hacking and media book Underground
  • Created Wikileaks in 2006 as web-based "dead letterbox" for whistle-blowers
  • Arrest warrant issued in Sweden for questioning over alleged sexual crimes, which he denies

"A warrant was issued on Thursday by reports. We've asked for it. We've been ignored at this point."

He said he and his Swedish legal adviser had been trying to contact prosecutors since August and his client had tried to meet prosecutors to "restore his good name".

"He's only wanted for interview, why not have that interview by consent, rather than this show trial?" he added.

Mr Stephens warned that the organisation held further secret material which it regarded as a "thermo-nuclear device" to be released if it needs to protect itself.

Wikileaks is currently working through the publication of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables, whose release has embarrassed the United States.

Lawyer Mark Stephens says pursuing Julian Assange over sex crime allegations is a political stunt

It has condemned the disclosures - including indiscreet descriptions of world leaders and instructions to spy at the UN - as an attack on the world community.

Asked by Andrew Marr if Mr Assange, who is in hiding, was in fear of his life, Mr Stephens said: "It's interesting to note people as high up the American tree as Sarah Palin have called for him to be hunted down by American special forces and assassinated.

"We've seen a number of suggestions that he should be assassinated, again from credible sources around the world.

"This is all about a man who is a journalist. He received, unbidden, an electronic brown envelope that journalists receive.

"This particular journalist has put it out. What they are doing is criminalising him, criminalising journalistic activity.

He said any attempt to take Mr Assange to Sweden could be a precursor to taking him on to the US, adding: "I'm really rather worried by the political motivations that appear to be behind this.

"It doesn't escape my attention that Sweden was one of those lickspittle states which used its resources and its facilities for rendition flights (US transport of terror suspects around the world for interrogation)."

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