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Wikileaks founder Assange rape warrant dropped

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 21 August 2010

Sweden has withdrawn an arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who had been wanted on suspicion of rape and molestation, the National Prosecutor's Office said on Saturday.

Julian Assange (Reuters)

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said Assange, whose whistle-blowing website last month published secret U.S. military files on Afghanistan, was no longer wanted by Swedish authorities.

"She (Finne) has come to the decision that he is no longer suspected of rape. All the charges concerning rape have been lifted," she told Reuters news agency.

A police investigation will continue.

Earlier the Director of Communications at the Sweden Prosecution Authority Karin Rosander told the AFP news agency "Julian Assange is wanted for two different issues, one of them is that he's suspected of rape in Sweden."

The warrant for Assange's arrest was issued late on Friday night, according to reports.

The prosecutor's office in Stockholm issued a brief statement saying it "confirms media reports that a foreign citizen has been arrested in absentia" but didn't name Assange directly.

"The arrest refers to two separate events, one complaint of molestation and one complaint of rape," the statement said.

"The person is arrested in absentia, as there is a risk that he could obstruct the investigation," it said.

Swedish tabloid Expressen claimed prosecutor Maria Haljebo Kjellstrand confirmed that Assange, who is an Australian citizen, was the person sought on the warrant.

Expressen said there are two separate incidents: one being a woman accusing Assange of "molestation" towards her in Stockholm, the other a woman accusing him of rape in Enköping, which is about an hours drive west from Stockholm.

The first woman allegedly met Assange, 39, at Södermalm (part of inner Stockholm) last week between Saturday and Sunday.

The second woman was reported to have met him in Enköping on Tuesday morning.

One of the women is 20-year-old and the other is 30, but the report in the Expressen does not say which woman is which.

Both women apparently claimed they did not want to come forward earlier as they were scared, according to the report. It is not clear which one of the women contacted the police.

According to DN (a liberal paper) the prosecutor Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand said the 'indecent behaviour' arrest is of the higher level of suspicion, whereas the rape accusation is of the lower grade.

She says in the article the lower degree of rape accusation is very unusual - it is usually always a matter of the higher degree when a rape accusation is made.

According to the report Assange has emailed DN to say he has not been contacted by the police and according to "a source" that DN has spoken to - he has left the country.

DN journalist Anders Forsström told Channel 4 News that Assange had emailed his paper saying "Why these allegations are surfacing at this juncture is an interesting question. I have not been contacted by police. The allegations are false."

The prosecutor's office said all information related to the case would be posted on its website.

Assange tweets innocence
Wikileaks tweeted out what is purportedly a message from Julian Assange himself. It said "Julian Assange: the charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing."

Wikileaks also said on its Twitter page: "We were warned to expect 'dirty tricks.' Now we have the first one."

In another tweet it said: "Expressen is a tabloid; No one here has been contacted by Swedish police. Needless to say this will prove hugely distracting."

Assange was apparently in Sweden last week partly to apply for a publishing certificate to make sure the Wikileaks website, which has servers in Sweden, can take full advantage of Swedish laws which protect whistleblowers.

Reports suggest he also spoke at a seminar hosted by the Christian faction of the opposition Social Democratic party and announced he would write bi-monthly columns for a left-wing Swedish newspaper.

Mr Assange recently made the headlines after his website Wikileaks published US military field reports from the war in Afghanistan entitled the "Afghan war diary 2004-2010".

More than 90,000 secret files revealed alleged "execution squads", an apparent plot to kill the Afghan president and named Afghan civilians who had helped the US forces. Assange also spoke to Channel 4 News about the biggest military leak in history.

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