Assange escapes arrest in Britain on legal point

Thursday, December 2, 2010

MELBOURNE - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is facing sex crime charges in Sweden, escaped arrest in Britain Thursday as Swedish authorities failed to fill out an arrest warrant correctly, it was reported here.

British authorities are believed to know where the WikiLeaks’ founder is staying, thought to be a location in country’s southeast, the Herald Sun reported.

Assange is believed to have supplied Scotland Yard with contact details upon arrival in Britain in October.

Swedish authorities issued a European arrest warrant for him Nov 19, a day before Interpol added him to its worldwide wanted list. But the warrant was not filled out correctly, which prevented the British police from acting on it and beginning extradition proceedings, the report said.

Assange has not been seen in public since the latest release of over 250,000 US diplomatic cables Sunday by the whistleblowing website.

Mark Stephens, his London-based lawyer, told The Times: “The arrest warrant has been issued in circumstances where Assange has an outstanding appeal in Sweden.”

However, a police source told the newspaper: “It is not a properly certified warrant so we can’t act on it.”

Stephens said that his client was originally wanted on a charge of rape but that it had been thrown out after a partially successful appeal. As a result, he said, the current allegations did not justify an arrest warrant under Swedish law.

“The sole ground for the warrant is the prosecutor’s blatantly false allegation that he is on the run from justice: he left Sweden lawfully and has offered himself for questioning. An appeal against this decision was filed Monday and is pending.”

The Swedish Supreme Court Thursday rejected an appeal by Assange against the arrest warrant issued against him on allegations of rape. The founder of the whistleblowing website is being sought by Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion.

Stephens said that police and other law enforcement agencies knew Assange’s location but it was likely they had taken no action because they knew that the warrant was defective.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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