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.