WikiLeaks founder arrested in London

08/12/2010

UK police have arrested WikiLeaks founder and owner Julian Assange on an arrest warrant from Sweden, where he is accused of sexual crimes. The 39-year-old Australian was arrested in the morning after he voluntarily appeared for an appointment at a London police station.

Earlier, Assange told a court in London that he would fight any attempt to extradite him to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sex crimes. The founder of the whistleblowing website that has released reams of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables has denied the allegations. He has not yet been charged.

08/12/2010

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The WikiLeaks founder had been hiding out at an undisclosed location in Britain since the website began publishing the controversial diplomatic cables.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for WikiLeaks, said Assange's arrest is an attack on media freedom, adding that the arrest won't stop the organization from releasing more documents online.

"This will not change our operation," he told The Associated Press.

Assange has said the documents will be released no matter what happens to him.

In an afternoon appearance at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, where a group of supporters had gathered, Assange was asked whether he understood that he could consent to be extradited to Sweden. He replied he understood, and would not consent, The Associated Press reported.

Assange is accused by Swedish authorities of one count of rape, one count of unlawful coercion and two counts of sexual molestation alleged to have been committed in August, police said.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police Service said: “Julian Assange (…) was arrested on a European arrest warrant by appointment at a London police station at 9:30 [a.m.] today. He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010.”

Mark Stephens, Assange's London-based lawyer, has said the charges stem from a "dispute over consensual but unprotected sex" and he suggested the case has political overtones.

The organisation's room to manoeuvre is narrowing by the day. It has been battered by web attacks, cut off by internet service providers and is the subject of a criminal investigation in the United States, where officials say the release jeopardized national security and diplomatic efforts around the world.

The campaign against WikiLeaks began with an effort to jam the website as the cables were being released.

US internet companies Amazon, EveryDNS and PayPal, then severed their links with WikiLeaks in quick succession, forcing it to jump to new servers and adopt a new primary web address — wikileaks.ch — in Switzerland.

Swiss authorities closed Assange's new Swiss bank account Monday, and MasterCard has pulled the plug on payments to WikiLeaks, according to technology news website CNET. Visa followed on Tuesday, saying it has suspended all payments to WikiLeaks "pending further investigation."

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