Interpol orders arrest of Wikileaks founder to face rape charges

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowers' website Wikileaks, is suspected of rape.
Image: New Media Days.

International police cooperation organization Interpol has put Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowers' website Wikileaks, on its most-wanted list after a court in Sweden announced he was wanted for alleged sex crimes. Wikileaks is this week releasing more than 250,000 secret "cables" between US diplomats.

Two weeks ago, Swedish authorities ordered the arrest of Assange for suspected rape, sexual molestation and illegal use of force. Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, yesterday released a "Red Notice" calling for Assange's arrest. Interpol stated that this type of notice is not an arrest warrant, but a request "to assist the national police forces in identifying or locating those persons with a view to their arrest and extradition."

The incidents are alleged to have occurred in August of this year, several weeks after Assange released 75,000 documents detailing US military actions in Afghanistan. "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," said Marianne Ny, director of prosecution in Sweden.

It was first reported that he was suspected of rape later in August, when he described the allegations as part of a "smear campaign" against Wikileaks. Wikinews reported at the time that he said "the charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing." A statement posted on Wikileaks' website after the charges were announced defended Assange. "We are deeply concerned about the seriousness of these allegations. We the people behind WikiLeaks think highly of Julian and he has our full support. While Julian is focusing on his defenses and clearing his name, WikiLeaks will be continuing its regular operations."

Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, said that the allegations against him were made after the two women he is alleged to have raped found out that he was in relationships with both at the same time. "Only after the women became aware of each other's relationships with Mr. Assange did they make their allegations against him," Stephens said in a statement.

Stephens added that he had not "received a single written word, at any time, in any form, from Swedish authorities on the Swedish investigation against our client," and he and Assange had only learnt about the case through reports in the media. "[This is] 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," he added.

Assange is currently residing in an unknown location. It has been reported he has attempted to disguise himself by cutting and dying his hair. He told Forbes magazine recently that Wikileaks has obtained documents containing evidence of corruption within a major US bank. He has reportedly been paying in cash and with friends' credit cards.

Speaking about the release of the cables, he told ABC News: "US officials have for 50 years trotted out this line when they are afraid the public is going to see how they really behave." It was reported on Wednesday that Ecuador, a country which critically opposes US policies, has offered Assange residency.

It is not our goal to achieve a more transparent society, it's our goal to achieve a more just society

Julian Assange

Along with the arrest, Assange is facing mounting pressure in the US over the leak of the cables. A retired CIA agent, Peter King, said Wikileaks should be designated a "terrorist organisation," and called for Wikileaks and Assange to be prosecuted for the release.

On Monday evening, Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, condemned the publishing of the files, thought to be leaked by Bradley Manning, who served as an intelligence analyst with the US Army before being arrested.

"It is an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations, that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity," Clinton said. "There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people, and there is nothing brave about sabotaging peaceful relations between nations on which our common security depends." She added that the US "deeply regrets" the leakage of the files.

Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, condemned the publishing of the files.
Image: Bbsrock.

Speaking to Time magazine on the internet, Assange defended the release of the files. "It is not our goal to achieve a more transparent society, it's our goal to achieve a more just society," he said. He also confirmed that Wikileaks has obtained more classified material, saying:"[W]e have a lot of source material that ... remains unpublished." Assange added that it was "very important" to him that "the law is not what, not simply what, powerful people would want others to believe it is."

Assange said in the interview with Time that all the documents had been reviewed and all names of informants had been redacted "carefully." He said: "They are all reviewed, and they're all redacted either by us or by the newspapers concerned." He also said that Wikileaks "formally asked the State Department for assistance with that. That request was formally rejected."

He was asked whether he was concerned that publishing the files could be considered civil disobedience. "Not at all. This organization [Wikileaks] practices civil obedience, that is, we are an organization that tries to make the world more civil and act against abusive organizations that are pushing it in the opposite direction," he said. "We have now in our four-year history, and over 100 legal attacks of various kinds, been victorious in all of those matters."