Sweden’s Supreme Court yesterday upheld a court order to detain Wiki-Leaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual molestation.
The 39-year-old Australian, who denies the accusations made by two Swedish women after his visit to the country in August, had appealed two lower court rulings allowing investigators to bring him into custody and issue an international arrest warrant.
He has not been formally charged.
WikiLeaks has angered the US and other governments by publishing almost half a million secret documents about US diplomatic relations and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The search for Assange, whose whereabouts is unknown, was stepped up on Wednesday as Sweden confirmed it had issued a European arrest warrant for him. Since leaving Sweden, the computer hacker has appeared in Britain and Switzerland but disappeared from public view after a Nov. 5 press conference in Geneva.
Assange has spoken publicly only through online interviews, and WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said late on Wednesday the organization was trying to keep his location a secret for security reasons.
Hrafnsson said that commentators in the US and Canada had called for Assange to be hunted down or killed.
Britain’s the Guardian, which helped broker the original Wiki-Leaks dump of Afghan intelligence files, has said Assange is hiding out in southeastern England. The paper did not cite a source for its information and Scotland Yard has declined to comment.
Swedish police said they would refile the European arrest warrant after police in Britain said certain specifications were missing.
Police spokesman Tommy Kangasvieri told local news agency TT the British wanted Sweden to specify the maximum penalties for all three crimes Assange is suspected of, and that will now be done.
The Supreme Court in Stockholm only reviews cases that are of importance for the interpretation of Swedish law or in exceptional cases where circumstances merit such a review.
It said it saw no reason to review the Assange case and upheld the detention order. The previous court order had stated that Assange is suspected of rape, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of unlawful coercion.
Various Swedish prosecutors have previously disagreed about whether to label the most serious charge as rape.
The details of what happened between Assange and the women aren’t clear, but a police report says both women spent a night each with the Australian during his visit to Sweden and filed their complaints together a week later.
According to Assange’s British attorney, Mark Stephens, the basis of the allegations seems to be a “dispute over consensual, but unprotected sex.”
Stephens yesterday said he would challenge any eventual British arrest warrant in court.