Sat, Dec 04, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Lawyer for Assange denies validity of arrest warrant

Reuters, LONDON and STOCKHOLM

The lawyer acting for WikiLeaks frontman Julian Assange denied on Thursday that Sweden had issued a valid European arrest warrant for alleged sex crimes, despite Stockholm’s insistence that legal difficulties with the warrant were resolved.

Swedish police said earlier that technical problems hindering the arrest of the 39-year-old Australian had been ironed out, and a newspaper report said he was in Britain.

However, in an interview, his London lawyer, Mark Stephens, who would not divulge his whereabouts because of death threats against him, said no warrant valid under Swedish, European or international law had been issued.

“There is no arrest warrant against him. There was an Interpol red notice, which is not a warrant, alerting authorities to monitor his movements,” Stephens said. “The arrest warrant was sent back by Scotland Yard [London police headquarters] because it did not comply with the law and was defective.”

Assange spends much of his time in Sweden and earlier this year was accused of sexual misconduct by two Swedish women. Swedish prosecutors opened, then dropped, then reopened an investigation into the allegations.

Sweden has authorized a warrant for his arrest on suspicion of sexual misconduct. However, Assange has not been formally charged with any crime in Sweden. He denies any wrongdoing and said in August he had been warned by Australian intelligence of plans to discredit his Web site, which aims to expose governments and corporations through the leaking of documents not previously public.

Claes Borgstrom, an attorney for the two women, told NBC News in an interview that suggestions the allegations were part of a dirty tricks campaign were “nonsense.”

Borgstrom said the allegations came from two incidents in August that were days apart and involved young women who were Wikileaks volunteers, but did not know each other at the time.

Stephens said his client had not been informed of the allegations or shown any evidence against him. He said Assange would be happy to meet Swedish prosecutors, but they had not wanted to meet him.

“We are in this position where we have never been told what the allegations are against him, we do know that he hasn’t been charged, we do know that he has only been asked for as a witness,” he said.

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