Britain requests details of Julian Assange case, fueling speculation he is there
LONDON - Speculation was growing Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is hiding somewhere in Britain after British police requested additional information from Swedish authorities seeking his arrest.
The Swedish prosecutor's office said Britain was the only country to ask for more information in connection with the European "red notice" for Assange's detention issued this week. The details requested - concerning the maximum penalty in Sweden for sexual molestation and coercion - were supplied Thursday, according to Karin Rosander, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office. The original warrant stated only the penalty for rape, the most serious accusation against Assange.
A Scotland Yard spokesperson, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said police would not comment on the case unless an arrest was made. As of Friday evening, Assange remained at large, with some news reports putting him at a secret location outside London.
The warrant stems from allegations by two women that Assange sexually assaulted them during a visit to Sweden in August. Assange has denied the accusations and says they are part of a smear campaign against him. He has not been charged with any crime and is wanted by Swedish detectives only for questioning. After interrogation, the prosecutor would decide whether or not to charge him.
Assange's WikiLeaks Web site caused major international fallout this week with its publication of 250,000 secret memos from U.S. diplomats around the world.
In an online Q&A hosted by the Guardian on Friday, Assange defended his actions and described the U.S. soldier who allegedly leaked the documents "an unparalleled hero."
"For the past four years, one of our goals has been to lionise the [sources] who take the real risks in nearly every journalistic disclosure, and without whose efforts, journalists would be nothing. If indeed it is the case, as alleged by the Pentagon, that the young soldier - Bradley Manning - is behind some of our recent disclosures, then he is without doubt an unparalleled hero," he said.
As countries and companies around the world scrambled to block WikiLeak servers , Assange said the leaks would continue regardless.
"The Cable Gate archive has been spread, along with significant material from the U.S. and other countries to over 100,000 people in encrypted form," he said. "If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically. Further, the Cable Gate archives is in the hands of multiple news organisations. History will win. The world will be elevated to a better place. Will we survive? That depends on you."
Omonira-Oyekanmi is a special correspondent.