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Interpol issues 'red notice' for Wikileaks' Assange

01 December 10 07:14
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in London (26 July 2010)

Interpol has issued a "red notice" for the founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, Julian Assange.

It said the Australian was wanted for questioning in Sweden over an alleged sex offence, which he has denied.

The red notice does not amount to an arrest warrant. Instead, it asks people to contact the police if they have any information about his whereabouts.

Meanwhile, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has said he did not approve an offer of residency made to Mr Assange.

Work praised

Mr Assange's whereabouts are unknown. He moves regularly from country to country and is known to have spent periods in Britain and Sweden. He was believed to have been in the UK earlier in November.

It is thought he only stays in the same place for a short period of time.

Mr Assange, 39, has filed an appeal with Sweden's Supreme Court in an effort to overturn a ruling by the Stockholm district court earlier this month that he be detained for questioning on allegations of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion, stemming from a visit in August.

His petition was rejected by the Stockholm appeals court last week.

Australia is also investigating whether he has broken any laws there.

Mr Assange has dismissed the allegations as part of a smear campaign.

His mother, Christine, has spoken of her distress at the Interpol alert.

Ms Assange, who lives in Queensland, told Australian radio: "He's my son and I love him and obviously I don't want him hunted down and jailed. I'm reacting as any mother would. I'm distressed. A lot of stuff that's written about me and Julian is untrue."

If Mr Assange were arrested he could face extradition to the United States, although analysts say that because the US Espionage Act carries the maximum death penalty, nations that do not have the statute might refuse extradition.

On Monday, Ecuador's Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas had praised Mr Assange's investigative work and said he was welcome to live and lecture in the country "without any conditions".

But Mr Correa told reporters that the offer had "not been approved by Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino - or the president". Mr Patino said it would "have to be studied from the legal and diplomatic perspective".

Sweden turned down Mr Assange's application for residency in October. The Scandinavian country's laws protect whistle-blowers.

On Sunday, Wikileaks began publishing about 250,000 US diplomatic cables in a third major release of classified US documents. The first two concerned the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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