NOTE: This is the update on this story. Charges have been dropped:
Swedish authorities say they have revoked an arrest warrant that had alleged rape against the founder and editor of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.
Assange is “no longer wanted” and “is not suspected of rape,” Chief Prosecutor Eva Finne said in a statement posted on the agency’s official website Saturday. He is also no longer arrested in absentia, the statement said.
The arrest warrant filed Friday had also mentioned a molestation charge, but molestation is not a crime punishable behind bars in Sweden.
Earlier, Karin Rosander, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, said Assange was arrested in absentia Friday night, and faced charges in relation to two separate instances, but she didn’t have more detail about when the alleged crimes occurred or who the alleged victims are.
Here is what ran earlier on TMV when the story broke:
Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, the founder of website that has upset so many stomachs in Washington and other military and diplomatic circles, has been charged with rape and is calling it a dirty trick.
The founder of controversial whistleblower website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and aides alleged dirty tricks Saturday after he was accused of rape in Sweden.
“The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing,” said a Twitter message attributed to Assange, whose website is in a stand-off with the Pentagon over secret military documents on Afghanistan.
A colleague of the 39-year-old Australian, Kristinn Hrafnsson, told AFP: “Julian denies these allegations and says they are false.”
“Julian Assange is wanted for two different issues, one of them is that he’s suspected of rape in Sweden,” the spokesman for the Swedish prosecutor’s office, Karin Rosander, said earlier.
Prosecutor Maria Haljebo Kjellstrand told the TT news agency that the rape was allegedly committed at Enkoping, near Stockholm, and an assault on another woman in the capital.
Hrafnsson, who spoke to AFP from Iceland, said Assange knew nothing of the charges until he read about them in the Swedish daily Expressen, which broke the story.
“There are powerful organisations who want to do harm to WikiLeaks,” Hrafnson said, adding that Assange was still in Sweden and would “go to the police very quickly.”
In another statement carried on the website of the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, Assange was quoted as asking why the accusations had surfaced now.
“It’s an interesting question,” he added.
AFP and other news sources note that Wikileaks last week promised to release more documents. CNN gives this additional background:
WikiLeaks has sparked major controversy by posting some 76,000 pages of those documents online last month, in what was called the biggest leak since the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War…..
….As WikiLeaks has grown and published increasingly high-profile items, Assange has found himself the target of what he says are many legal attacks — though not necessarily of the type he now faces in Sweden.
“In my role as Wikileaks editor, I’ve been involved in fighting off many legal attacks,” Assange said in an e-mail to the BBC earlier this year. “To do that, and keep our sources safe, we have had to spread assets, encrypt everything, and move telecommunications and people around the world to activate protective laws in different national jurisdictions.
“We’ve become good at it, and never lost a case, or a source, but we can’t expect everyone to go through the extraordinary efforts that we do.”
In a news conference following the release of the Afghan documents, Assange said the site has 800 part-time volunteers and a loose network of 70,000 “supporters.”
Here’s CNN’s report on the rape charges:
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.