Assange Arrested In London On Swedish Warrant

7 Dec

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested Tuesday in London on a Swedish warrant, London’s Metropolitan Police said.

Assange was arrested at a London police station at 9:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. ET) and will appear at the City of Westminster Magistrate’s Court later in the day, police said.

Swedish authorities had issued the warrant for Assange so they can talk to him about sex-crime allegations unrelated to WikiLeaks’ recent disclosure of secret U.S. documents.

Assange’s British lawyer, Mark Stephens, said his client would fight extradition to Sweden, according to Britain’s Press Association.

At court, Assange will respond to the arrest warrant, and the court will then have roughly 21 days to decide whether to extradite him, said Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association.

Assange will be allowed to appeal and will probably be allowed to go free on bail while the court decides, Ellis said.

Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has said he has long feared retribution for his website’s disclosures and has called the rape allegations against him a smear campaign.

Sweden first issued the arrest warrant for Assange in November, saying he is suspected of one count of rape, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of unlawful coercion — or illegal use of force — allegedly committed in August.

Last week, at the request of Sweden’s Stockholm Criminal Court, Interpol issued a “red notice” placing Assange on a list of wanted suspects.

British police then asked Swedish authorities for additional details not specified in the initial arrest warrant, a possible indication that the location of the elusive Assange is known. CNN has not confirmed that Assange is in the United Kingdom.

Swedish prosecutors said Monday that they had sent additional information the British requested and that the case was being handled in accordance with European laws.

WikiLeaks, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information, has been under intense pressure from the United States and its allies since it began posting the first of more than 250,000 U.S. State Department documents on November 28.

Since then, the site has been hit with denial-of-service attacks, been kicked off servers in the United States and France, and found itself cut off from funds in the United States and Switzerland.

In response, the site has rallied supporters to mirror its content “in order to make it impossible to ever fully remove WikiLeaks from the internet,” with more than 500 sites responding to the appeal by Monday evening, it said.

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