19 Nov 2010

WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange to fight order for arrest

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to challenge a Swedish prosecutor’s “bizarre and exotic” request for an international arrest warrant, his lawyer tells Channel 4 News.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to challenge Swedish prosecutor's call for an international arrest warrant to be issued (Image: Reuters)

Mr Assange’s lawyers are to launch an appeal after a Swedish court yesterday ordered the detention of Mr Assange on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion.

Mark Stephens, Julian Assange‘s UK-based lawyer, claimed to Channel 4 News that the prosecutor “jumped ahead” in her call for an arrest warrant, which is subject to an appeal in Sweden first.

Mr Stephens declined Channel 4 News an interview with Mr Assange directly on the basis that the prosecutor has not yet given Mr Assange details of the allegations against him, nor the evidence. He said Mr Assange has repeatedly asked to meet her and face police questioning.

“It makes it nigh on impossible to answer her. It is highly irregular. I have never seen this happen before,” Mr Stephens said.

“She is deliberately poisoning the media well by portraying Julian as a rapist who’s running from justice,” he added.

‘Flight risk’

Prosecutor Marianne Ny told the Swedish press however that she was not aware of Mr Assange’s willingness to meet, adding that “the district court shared our opinion that there is flight risk in this case”.

Mr Stephens, a partner at Finers Stephens Innocent, said Ms Ny’s “cynical ploy” is in breach of Swedish laws. “The co-counsel was not even told what the allegations were until they stood up in court yesterday,” he added.

Mr Stephens claims there is an attempt to “disadvantage” Mr Assange by running a smear campaign against the WikiLeaks founder, who was responsible for the largest ever leak of classified Iraq war files last month.

Julian Assange: hacking on the electronic frontier
The WikiLeaks founder has taken investigative journalism into the electronic age. But can he survive now that he has become the story?

Who Knows Who peers into the secretive world of Julian Assange.

Read more: Julian Assange: hacking on the electronic frontier

The 39-year-old Australian has a team of more than 160 Pentagon staff focusing on his activities, Mr Stephens said, alongside security staff from Britain’s own GCHQ, MI5 and MI6.

The precise nature of the allegations remain ambiguous Mr Stephens said, as under Swedish law the sexual offences detailed could be anything from a lewd comment or a grope, to worse.

While Ms Ny could not be reached for comment, a statement on the Swedish Prosecution Authority’s website reads: “Due to the ongoing investigation and the parties involved, the prosecutor cannot at the moment give more information concerning the suspicions or which investigation matters have been conducted”.

Mr Stephens said the team of lawyers working on Mr Assange’s behalf have over a century of legal experience between them and “not one of us have ever come across a case even in the Third World where the prosecution have declined to give information on the allegations or meet”.

While he would not say where in the world Mr Assange is right now, it is understood he was in the UK earlier this week and had informed UK officials of his presence in the country.

Mr Assange remains willing to meet Ms Ny, Mr Stephens said.

“For all the Swedish taxpayers’ money she has spent on getting InterPol etc involved, she could have hired a private jet and met Julian by now,” he added.