Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Assange is being persecuted in Sweden: lawyer

The lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange charged that his client is being persecuted by Swedish authorities whose accusations of sex crimes have prompted an Interpol alert for his arrest.

Swedish officials say they issued the international alert because the 39-year-old Australian has not made himself available for a meeting with prosecutors. Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, said that Swedish officials have turned down repeated offers to speak to Assange.

Assange’s secret-spilling group has leaked a series of confidential US intelligence and diplomatic reports this year, including the disclosure earlier this week of hundreds of classified State Department cables.

U.S. officials have reacted with outrage, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton accusing WikiLeaks of acting illegally and promising “aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information.”

Clinton said she discussed the leak with her colleagues at a security summit in Kazakhstan and the revelations will not hurt American diplomacy.

The leaks include unflattering descriptions of some foreign leaders and requests for US diplomats to gather personal information on others.

They have revealed Western concerns that Islamist militants might get access to Pakistan’s nuclear material and American scepticism that Islamabad will sever ties to Taliban factions fighting in Afghanistan.

They also showed U.S. doubts over the abilities of Pakistan’s weak, unpopular civilian government.

“I have certainly raised the issue of the leaks in order to assure our colleagues that it will not in any way interfere with American diplomacy or our commitment to continuing important work that is ongoing,” Clinton said.

“I have not any had any concerns expressed about whether any nation will not continue to work with and discuss matters of importance to us both going forward.”

Several officials at the summit echoed her comments.

Assange is wanted on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. The exact natures of the allegations aren’t completely clear because formal charges have not been filed.

The former computer hacker’s exact whereabouts remain unknown, although he has conducted online interviews with some media organisations.

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