19 Nov 2010

Warrant to be issued for arrest of WikiLeaks founder

7:23 am on 19 November 2010

A court in Sweden has approved a request for the arrest of Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks website.

Prosecutors want to question him about accusations of sexual assaults against two women in Sweden.

Mr Assange, an Australian who does not live in Sweden, says the allegations are part of a smear campaign.

Wikileaks has published confidential material relating to US military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Assange, 39, denies allegations of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion, which stem from a visit to Sweden in August.

A Stockholm prosecutor started an investigation shortly afterwards, but the case was dropped by the chief prosecutor a day later.

Prosecution Director Marianne Ny reopened the investigation in September, but did not request Mr Assange's detention at the time.

Ms Ny says Mr Assange needs to be questioned. "So far, we have not been able to meet with him to accomplish the interrogations," she says.

On Thursday the Stockholm District Court issued an order to detain him. Ms Ny said that "to execute the court's decision, the next step is to issue an international arrest warrant".

Mr Assange's lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, said his client "maintains his complete innocence". Mr Hurtig would not say where Mr Assange was.