Swedish prosecutor seeks arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Assange

November 18th, 2010 - 5:42 pm ICT by BNO News  

STOCKHOLM (BNO NEWS) — A Swedish prosecutor on Thursday asked a court to issue an arrest warrant for Julian Assange, the founder of whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

Marianne Ny, Director of Prosecution, said she has asked the District Court of Stockholm to detain Assange on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. “The reason for my request is that we need to interrogate him,” Ny said, adding that prosecutors have been unable to talk to Assange.

“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,” a statement from Ny’s office said, adding that a hearing on the request for an arrest warrant would be held at 2 p.m. local time.

Assange was first accused of rape and related charges on August 21, but prosecutors quickly dropped the charge. “I do not believe there is reason to suspect that he committed rape,” chief prosecutor Eva Finné said at the time. A charge of sexual molestation involving a second woman, however, was upheld.

Days later, on September 1st, Ny said the investigation into the rape allegations would be reopened. “There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed,” Ny said. “Considering information available at present, my judgement is that the classification of the crime is rape. The basis for further considerations is not sufficient at the moment.”

Ny further said that the investigation concerning molestation would be extended to include all allegations in the original police report. “There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed,” Ny said about the molestation charge involving a second woman. “Based on the information available, the crimes in question come under the heading of sexual coercion and sexual molestation, respectively.”

Ny is leading both investigations and is being assisted by Deputy Chief Prosecutor Ms Erika Lejnefors. “Due to the investigation and the persons involved in the matter, I cannot give more information concerning details in the investigation,” Ny added in September.

Assange has denied the accusations on multiple occasions, but admitted to having consensual sex with two women within several days of each other. “The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing,” he said on August 21.

Assange questioned the timing of the charges when speaking with media organizations and said he had been told to expect ‘dirty tricks’ from the Pentagon, including ’sex traps’ to ruin his reputation.

WikiLeaks at the time said on its blog that it had been made aware of the allegations made against Assange. “We are deeply concerned about the seriousness of these allegations,” the organization said. “We the people behind WikiLeaks think highly of Julian and and he has our full support. While Julian is focusing on his defenses and clearing his name, WikiLeaks will be continuing its regular operations,” it concluded.

While the facts surrounding the cases continued to be investigated, British newspaper the Daily Mail in late August obtained a copy of the women’s police statements. According to the documents, Assange flew into Stockholm on August 11 to speak at a seminar organized by the Social Democratic Party three days later.

Woman A, who was not identified but works for the Christian branch of the party and is described by the Daily Mail as an ‘attractive twentysomething’, organized the event. They had never met before, however.

The woman offered to let Assange stay in her one-bedroom flat during his stay, and would be away until the Saturday seminar to visit family. She returned early, on Friday, however.

“They had a discussion and decided it would be OK to share the living space, then went out together for dinner,” a police source told the Daily Mail. “When they got back they had sexual relations, but there was a problem with the condom - it had split.”

The police source told the Daily Mail that Woman A believed that Assange had done this deliberately, although Assange insisted that it was an accident.

Still, despite the incident, Woman A appeared to be relaxed and untroubled at the seminar the next day. At that seminar, the Daily Mail reported, Assange met Woman B. She was described as ‘another pretty blonde’ by the Daily Mail, but was slightly younger than Woman A.

In a police statement, Woman B says how she became fascinated - or perhaps even obsessed - by Assange due to the media coverage he received. She described Assange as “interesting, brave and admirable.”

In the weeks leading up to the August 11 seminar, Woman B read about Assange on the internet and closely followed news reports about his current activities. She learned that Assange would be visiting Sweden to give a seminar on August 11 and offered WikiLeaks her help.

The Daily Mail says she took the Saturday off work to attend the seminar, and dressed in a pink cashmere jumper that - between the grey-suited journalists - must have caught his eye.

Though, among the journalists, Woman B said she felt ‘uncomfortably out of place’ at the seminar. Still, she managed to get a seat in the front row and was asked to buy a computer cable for Assange. No one bothered to thank her, however, she complained.

She was later invited to join a lunch at a local eatery called Bistro Boheme. This lunch was attended by two Social Democrats, a freelance journalist friend of Assange, Assange himself, and Woman B. She was the only female present.

“She was a little bit strange,” one of the men who attended the lunch told the Daily Mail. “Definitely an odd character keen to get Julian’s attention.”

The woman, in the police statements, admitted trying to get her ‘hero’ to engage in conversation. Assange seemed to appreciate her attention, and eventually took a closer interest after Woman B again approached the WikiLeaks founder.

As Assange was tucking into cheese served on Swedish crispbread, Woman B reportedly asked him if he thought it was good. And in response, Assange allegedly looked at her directly and started to feed her.

But his next move was - as the Daily Mail described it - pure computer geek as Assange asked Woman B for a charger to recharge his laptop. She eagerly offered him help. “Ah yes, it was you who gave me a cable,” Assange told her.

Together, they went on a search for a charger and Woman B bought him a travel card for the metro because Assange said he didn’t have any money. On the train, Assange was recognized by a man who gushed in admiration about WikiLeaks but Woman B did not say how that made her feel.

The two eventually ended up at the city’s Natural History Museum where Assange headed to a computer console. But when Assange started to ‘tweet’ about his day, Woman B became annoyed.

Still, at around 6 p.m. local time, Assange and Woman B entered a bijou cinema to watch a short film called Deep Sea. At one point during the movie, the Daily Mail continued, the couple moved to the back row where they went ‘far beyond kissing and fondling.’

After the show, they wandered towards a local park where Assange turned to her and allegedly said: “You are very attractive to me.” He reportedly told Woman B he had a traditional Swedish crayfish party to attend to and needed a power nap, so they laid side by side on the grass as Assange fell asleep.

About 20 minutes later, Woman B woke him and asked if they would meet again. “Of course,” he promised. What he apparently failed to mention, however, was that the party he was going to attend to would be hosted by the same woman he had sex with just two nights before.

Later that evening, Woman B received a text message from Assange to call him. She did, but when she tried to call him the next day his phone was turned off.

She eventually spoke with Assange on the Monday after the weekend in August and he agreed to meet her during the evening. Assange suggested to spend the night at her flat, and Woman B agreed, although she reportedly said she would rather go to a hotel.

Again, that evening, Woman B bought Assange a train ticket because he had no cash with him and didn’t want to use his credit card in case ‘his movement was being tracked.’

But to Woman B’s frustration, Assange spend most of the 45-minute journey surfing on the internet on his laptop, reading stories about himself and twittering or texting on his mobile phone. “He paid more attention to the computer than to me,” the woman told police.

By the time they arrived at Woman B’s home, the passion and attraction appeared to have vanished, reports said. What followed, the Daily Mail reported, was blacked out in the documents.

One source told the Daily Mail that Woman B had insisted he wear a condom, but the following morning they had sex without one. This was the basis for the rape charge, the newspaper reported. But this ‘incident’ did not appear to impact Woman B at the time, as she went out to buy food for his breakfast.

She was concerned, however, to leave Assange alone in her flat. “I didn’t feel I knew him very well,” the woman told police.

They ate in an atmosphere that was tense, though she said in her statement that she tried to lighten the mood by joking about the possibility that she might be pregnant.

They parted on friendly terms, the Daily Mail reported, and Woman B bought his train ticket back to Stockholm. When she asked if he would call, he said: ‘Yes, I will.’ But he did not and neither did he answer her calls.

The drama took a turn soon after, however, when Woman A and Woman B spoke to each other. They had met briefly at the seminar, but barely knew each other. To their horror, they found out they had both slept with Assange and feared they had received a sexually transmitted disease (STD) from him. Especially Woman B, the paper said, was anxious about the possibility of HIV and pregnancy.

After this discovery, the women walked into a police station and eventually charges were filed which led to an arrest warrant that was later dropped. Now, prosecutors seek a new warrant to finally question Assange in the case.

Assange is the founder of whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, which made headlines several times this year. On April 5, the organization released a classified video which showed a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq which left several people killed, including two Reuters journalists.

And in July, WikiLeaks released the so-called ‘Afghan War Diary’, more than 92,000 documents with sensitive details about the ongoing war in Afghanistan. It was one of the largest leaks in the history of the U.S. military, but also exposed the names of Afghans who have provided information to NATO.

Then, in late October, WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 U.S. Army field reports of the Iraq War from 2004 to 2009. It led to several revelations, including new reports of civilian deaths. It was the biggest leak in U.S. military history.

The U.S. Defense Department has previously stated that it is against the law to release classified information and called upon WikiLeaks to take the documents from their website. “There should be no further posting of these classified documents, and those that have been posted should be removed,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

“These documents are property of the United States government,” he added. “The unauthorized release of them threatens the lives of coalition forces, as well as Afghan nationals. All should be returned immediately, they should be removed from the Web, there should be no further posting of them to the Web, and all databases containing them should be destroyed.”

“There is a balance to make sure that all the available intelligence is accessible where it needs to be accessible,” Whitman continued. “But there should be safeguards, too, to preclude or mitigate instances where people may be acting in an improper, unauthorized or even illegal way.”

“Anything that we do as we assess the situation here and learn lessons from this will always be balanced with the imperative that our forces on the ground need to have access to the best information that we can provide them,” Whitman concluded.

Earlier this year, Reporters Without Borders criticized WikiLeaks by saying that the website showed “incredible irresponsibility” by releasing the classified documents about the Afghan war.

Reporters Without Borders emphasized that revealing the identity of hundreds of people who collaborated with coalition forces in the Afghan war is extremely dangerous as the Taliban or other insurgent groups can use the information for possible deadly revenge attacks. No such attacks have been reported, however.

The organization also said that the release of the classified documents could trigger a closer surveillance of the Internet by governments. But it also condemned the harassment of WikiLeaks contributors and informants in wake of the brief detention of Jacob Appelbaum, a WikiLeaks researcher.

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