Interpol issues wanted notice for Wikileaks' Assange

Wikileaks' chief spokesman is contesting sexual assault allegation in Sweden

Interpol has issued a so-called "red notice" for Wikileaks' Julian Assange, notifying police around the world that he is wanted for questioning by Swedish prosecutors related to sexual assault accusations.

The red notice is not an arrest warrant but is used by Interpol to notify national police forces to be on the lookout for a suspect "with a view to their arrest and extradition," according to Interpol's Web site.

The move could intensify pressure on Assange, 39, of Australia, as Wikileaks continues to release tens of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables on its Web site.

On Nov. 18, the District Court in Stockholm ordered Assange's detention "on probable cause suspected of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion." Assange appealed, but the order was affirmed by the Svea Court of Appeals on Nov. 24. On Tuesday he appealed again to overturn the ruling, this time to Sweden's Supreme Court.

Assange has contested the allegations as Swedish prosecutors have wavered over the case, which reports say centers on two women who say they had unprotected sex with him. Assange has maintained the encounters were consensual.

An arrest warrant on rape charges was issued by a duty prosecutor in late August, but quickly dropped by Swedish Chief Prosecutor Eva Finné when she took over the case. A week later, Swedish Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny re-opened the investigation into the rape charges and said she wanted to question Assange.

Assange's London attorney, Mark Stephens, said in a statement last week that his client has been willing to be interviewed.

"Despite his right to silence, my client has repeatedly offered to be interviewed, first in Sweden, and then in the U.K. (including at the Swedish Embassy), either in person or by telephone, video conferencing or e-mail and he has also offered to make a sworn statement on affidavit," according to Stephens.

"All of these offers have been flatly refused by a prosecutor who is abusing her powers by insisting that he return to Sweden at his own expense to be subjected to another media circus that she will orchestrate," Stephens wrote.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Stephens contended that Ny has failed to follow obligations under Swedish, European and international law that require her to provide Assange with information and evidence on the allegations.

Since the rape charge was dropped, "the current allegation he faces does not -- as a matter of Swedish law -- justify an arrest warrant for Mr. Assange," Stephens continued. "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."

Assange is known to frequently travel but has made several public appearance in London this year speaking about Wikileaks.

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