Saturday, August 21, 2010
The arrest warrant issued for Wikileaks’ editor-in-chief Julian Assange has been quashed by Stockholm Chief Prosecutor Eva Finné, who said in a press release “I am of the opinion that there is no reason to suspect that he has committed a rape.” The press officer of the Swedish Prosecution Authority says that he is still suspected of molestation, and that neither police nor prosecutors have yet been able to contact Assange. Assange had this morning said that he was going to hand himself in to police but also said that the accusations against him were false. The investigation is continuing.
A warrant for Assange’s arrest was issued on Friday evening after the Stockholm police informed prosecutors that he had been accused of rape. According to Expressen’s sources two women between 20 and 30 years old are the alleged victims. Police and prosecutor Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand told Swedish news agency TT that the alleged molestation took place in Stockholm on the night of 13–14 August and the alleged rape happened “later” in Enköping. (Expressen’s sources say the alleged rape occurred on Tuesday.) Beyond that they have refused to comment. Sources told Expressen that the two women knew each other and “knew that they had been the victims of the same thing”. A source says that the women were afraid of Assange’s “position of power” and had been reluctant to make a formal report to the police. However, on Sunday one of his accusers was interviewed by Aftonbladet and denied that they were scared of Assange: “It is wrong to say that we were frightened of Assange and that we hadn’t wanted to report him for that reason. He’s not violent and I do not feel threatened by him.”
Assange was in Sweden last week to talk about his work and to defend Wikileaks’ publication of the Afghan War Diary, a set of tens of thousands of secret US military documents whose publication has angered the Pentagon and the Obama administration. He had also met Swedish Pirate Party leader Rickard Falkvinge and signed a deal in which the party agreed to provide Wikileaks with server space. The Pirate Party is continuing its cooperation with Wikileaks despite the allegations against Assange.
Assange has denied the allegations in e-mails to Swedish media and on Wikileaks’ Twitter feed, saying “the charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing.” An official statement on the Wikileaks blog says: “We are deeply concerned about the seriousness of these allegations. We the people behind WikiLeaks think highly of Julian and he has our full support. While Julian is focusing on his defenses and clearing his name, WikiLeaks will be continuing its regular operations.”