Warrant for arrest of WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange issued

A SWEDISH court has ordered the detention of Julian Assange, the founder of website WikiLeaks, on suspicion of rape and other sexual crimes.

Mr Assange's lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, yesterday told journalists after the hearings he expected a European arrest warrant would be issued for Mr Assange, who has visited Sweden in the past.

"He maintains his complete innocence," Mr Hurtig said.

He declined to answer questions as to the whereabouts of Australia-born Mr Assange.

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"But sooner or later he has to come to Sweden if this continues," Mr Hurtig said.

The prosecutor's office began an investigation into allegations of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion against Mr Assange in September.

Marianne Ny, of the Prosecution Authority, said: "The reason for my request (to the court] is that we need to interrogate him. So far, we have not been able to meet him to carry out the interrogations."

Mr Assange has called the allegations baseless and criticised what he has called a legal circus in Sweden, where he had been seeking to build a base in order to benefit from its strict journalist protection laws.

He has said that he had been warned by Australian intelligence before the charges were brought that he could face a campaign to discredit him.

Mr Hurtig played down talk of a plot, saying: "I don't think so, at least not from the CIA or from any big organisation."

WikiLeaks has angered the Pentagon with its releases of US documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The latest leak, in October, was of nearly 400,000 classified files on the Iraq war.

Mr Assange said this month he may seek political asylum in Switzerland.

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