Swedish police have issued an international arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, wanted on suspicion of rape and sexual molestation, police said Saturday.
“Late last night we gathered all the information and sent it out in the different systems,” namely the Swedish system, Schengen countries system SIS and Interpol, Tommy Kangasvieri of the Swedish National Criminal Police told AFP.
“The prosecutor had already decided to issue an international arrest warrant, we made sure that all the police forces in the world would see it,” Kangasvieri explained.
Interpol, based in Lyon in eastern France, said it had received an arrest warrant for the extradition of Assange.
The Stockholm district court on Thursday ordered an arrest warrant for Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, for questioning on “probable cause of suspected rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion” in Sweden in August.
The court order allowed prosecutor Marianne Ny, who had requested Assange’s detention, to prepare an international arrest warrant for the head of the whistleblowing website, who is believed to be in Britain.
Ny insisted Thursday that arresting Assange was the only way she could be sure of questioning him about the allegations, which he has denied.
Assange’s Swedish lawyer Bjoern Hurtig on Friday filed an appeal against the arrest warrant court order, but the appeal did not suspend the Swedish order or delay the international warrant.
However, Swedish media reported the petition would likely be treated quickly by the appeals court, which could rule on the warrant’s legitimacy in days.
On Saturday, Assange’s lawyer in Britain Mark Stephens said he and Hurtig had offered prosecutor Ny the opportunity to question Assange via videolink or at the Swedish embassy in London.
“Any suggestion that my client is hiding from the Swedish prosecutor is wrong,” Stephens told Swedish news agency TT.
The sending out of an arrest warrant despite a lodged appeal to block it “seems like a deliberate attempt to avoid the appeal,” he said, criticising Ny’s methods as “persecution, not prosecution.”
Ny would not tell TT if she had been in contact with Assange’s lawyers, but defended the arrest warrant procedure as normal.
“The only thing I can say is that we have conducted this investigation in a normal way. We follow the rules and the rulebooks,” she said.
Assange has been accused of raping one woman in Sweden and sexually molesting another.
He has strongly denied the charges and hinted that they could be part of a “smear campaign” against his whistleblower website for publishing classified US documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
WikiLeaks last month published an unprecedented 400,000 classified US documents on the Iraq war and posted 77,000 secret US files on the Afghan conflict in July.