WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested in sex case

Julian Assange

Swedish authorities are investigating allegations of coercion, which he denies, in his encounters with two women. His website’s release of U.S. diplomatic cables has embarrassed governments worldwide.

Julian Assange, founder of the controversial WikiLeaks website, was arrested here Tuesday morning at the request of Swedish authorities who want to question him about allegations of sexual assault, Scotland Yard said.

Assange, 39, voluntarily surrendered to police and was put under arrest, police said. He is expected to appear in a London court later Tuesday.

Sweden has asked that Assange be extradited so that it can investigate allegations by two women who had sexual encounters with him in that country earlier this year. Swedish prosecutors say the encounters may have involved “unlawful coercion” and even rape, but Assange has insisted that the liaisons were consensual.

The accusations have stalked Assange since the summer, before his website began publishing portions of the huge cache of U.S. State Department diplomatic cables that have dismayed American officials and other governments around the world in recent days.

But Assange, who is Australian, and his lawyers and supporters believe that the U.S. has pushed the sexual assault case behind the scenes as a way of embarrassing, harassing and silencing him.

Assange is believed to have been in southern England for much of the past few weeks as the State Department cables have been released. Swedish prosecutors last month issued an international warrant for his arrest, but British authorities did not move to arrest him until this week, apparently because of a technical mistake on the warrant.

At his court hearing, Assange’s lawyers are expected to ask for him to be released on bail while he fights the attempt to extradite him.

That legal battle could take weeks or even months. Assange’s attorneys fear that a successful extradition to Sweden on the sexual assault allegations could also make it easier for him to be extradited to the United States if prosecutors there charge him with various offenses relating to the WikiLeaks disclosures.

In the past few days, the net has been closing around Assange and his organization. booted WikiLeaks from its Internet server, and on Monday, a Swiss bank froze an account Assange had opened to raise funds.
Source: L A Times

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