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Swedish authorities win court ruling in bid to arrest WikiLeaks founder

LONDON — The law is closing in on Julian Assange. Swedish authorities won a court ruling Thursday in their bid to arrest the WikiLeaks founder for questioning in a rape case, British intelligence is said to know where he's hiding, and U.S. pundits and politicians are demanding he be hunted down or worse.

The former computer hacker who has embarrassed the U.S. government and foreign leaders with his online release of a huge trove of secret American diplomatic cables suffered a legal setback when Sweden's Supreme Court upheld an order to detain him — a move that could lead to his extradition.

Meanwhile, Assange continues to leak sensitive documents. Newly posted cables on WikiLeaks' website detailed a host of embarrassing disclosures, including allegations that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi accepted kickbacks and a deeply unflattering assessment of Turkmenistan's president.

Assange is accused in Sweden of rape, sexual molestation and coercion in a case from August, and Swedish officials have alerted Interpol and issued a European arrest warrant to bring him in for questioning.

The 39-year-old Australian denies the charges, which his lawyer, Mark Stephens, said apparently stemmed from a "dispute over consensual but unprotected sex." Stephens said the case is turning into an exercise in persecution.

While Assange has not made a public appearance for nearly a month, his lawyer insisted authorities know where to find him.

"Both the British and the Swedish authorities know how to contact him, and the security services know exactly where he is," said Stephens, who also represents the Associated Press on media-related matters.

It was unclear if or when police would act on Sweden's demands. Police there acknowledged Thursday they would have to refile their European arrest warrant after British authorities asked for more details on the maximum penalties for all three crimes of which Assange is suspected.

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said late Wednesday that the organization was trying to keep Assange's location a secret for security reasons, noting that commentators in the United States and Canada have called for Assange to be hunted down or killed.

Sarah Palin likened Assange to an al-Qaida propagandist and accused him, without offering any proof, of having "blood on his hands."

Republican Rep. Peter King of New York called for Assange to be charged under the Espionage Act and asked whether WikiLeaks can be designated a terrorist organization.

"I think Assange should be assassinated, actually," Tom Flanagan, a former adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told the CBC. Flanagan, a U.S.-born professor of political science at the University of Calgary, later apologized.


Russia scoffs at portrayal: Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables that portray Russia as a virtual mafia state are "total nonsense" of doubtful authenticity, Dmitri Peskov, spokesman of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said Thursday. The cables describe Russia as a country where criminals work closely with the powerful security agencies, men enter the Kremlin lugging suitcases purportedly stuffed with cash and governors collect bribes as methodically as taxes. The documents suggest Putin allegedly stashed huge amounts of money in foreign bank accounts.

Egypt weighed nuclear weapons: Leaked cables also reveal that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would consider turning his country into a nuclear power if Iran acquired atomic weapons. A cable from May 2008, one of thousands of secret diplomatic documents released by the WikiLeaks website, describes how Mubarak told a U.S. congressional delegation that everyone in the region was "terrified" of a nuclear Iran. Mubarak also cautioned the U.S. against prematurely withdrawing from Iraq as that would leave "Iran in control," and he recommended installing a military dictator in Baghdad.

Turkmen leader "vindictive:" Memos from U.S. Embassy staff in Turkmenistan portray that country's authoritarian President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov as a vain, vindictive liar, and authorities reportedly feared his being assassinated so much that a stray cat was once a suspect. The reclusive former Soviet Central Asia nation is described as a hive of corruption led by a dimwitted autocrat in a cable. "Since he's not a very bright guy, our source offered, he is suspicious of a lot of people," the note said.

Swedish authorities win court ruling in bid to arrest WikiLeaks founder 12/02/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:26pm]
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