WikiWhere? Assange Out of Sight as Warrant Looms

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a press conference at Park Plaza Hotel Oct. 23, 2010, in London. Getty Images

Julian Assange's legal options narrowed Thursday as the WikiLeaks founder lost an appeal against a court order for his arrest and his British lawyer said authorities knew his precise location.

Sweden's Supreme Court upheld an order to detain the 39-year-old Australian for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual molestation that could lead to his extradition. The former computer hacker has been out of the public eye for nearly a month, although attorney Mark Stephens insisted that authorities knew how to find him.

"Both the British and the Swedish authorities know how to contact him, and the security services know exactly where he is," Stephens told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, cables published to WikiLeaks' website detailed alleged financial support for North Korea and terrorist affiliates by Austrian banks; an allegation by a Pakistani official that Russia "fully supports" Iran's nuclear program; and a deeply unflattering assessment of Turkmenistan's president.

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Accused in Sweden of rape, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of unlawful coercion, Assange's last public appearance was at a Geneva press conference on Nov. 5.

Swedish officials have alerted Interpol and issued a European arrest warrant in a bid to bring him back in for questioning. Stephens, Assange's lawyer, said that the Swedish prosecution was riddled with irregularities and turning into an exercise in persecution.

Assange denies the charges, and Stephens has said they apparently stemmed from a "dispute over consensual, but unprotected sex."

It is 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 Assange is suspected of.

More on WikiLeaks:

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WikiLeaks: Putin Likely Knew of Spy Murder Plot
Next WikiLeak Could Turn Assange into Robin Hood
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Scotland Yard declined comment, as did the Serious and Organized Crime Agency, responsible for processing European arrest warrants for suspects in England.

The international search for Assange, however, may be more a matter of bureaucratic and legal delay than actual man-hunt, according to a report Thursday in the British newspaper, The Independent.

British newspaper The Independent says that the WikiLeaks chief is believed to be in southeast England, and although British police won't say exactly where, they know his location.

"The 39-year-old Australian supplied the Metropolitan Police with contact details upon arriving in the UK in October," reports The Independent. "Police sources confirmed that they have a telephone number for Mr. Assange and are fully aware of where he is staying."

Stephens — who also represents The Associated Press — said that if Assange were ever served with a warrant, he would fight it in British court.

"The process in this case has been so utterly irregular that the chances of a valid arrest warrant being submitted to me are very small," he said.

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

Assange's Swedish lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, wasn't immediately available for comment.

Amazon.com Inc., from using the U.S. company's computers to distribute State Department communications and other documents, WikiLeaks said Wednesday. The WikiLeaks site was inaccessible for several hours before it returned to servers owned by its previous Swedish host, Bahnhof, which are housed in a protective Cold-War era bunker. Tech blogs have compared it to a lair from a James Bond movie.

"We have been under attack and we have had to move to different servers," WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson said. "But we have ways and means to bypass any closure in our services."

Amazon's move to evict WikiLeaks from its servers came after congressional staff called the company to inquire about its relationship with WikiLeaks, Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent, said Wednesday.

"The company's decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material," Lieberman said in a statement. He added that he would have further questions for Amazon about its dealings with WikiLeaks.

The latest batch of leaked documents included a frank assessment from the American envoy to Stockholm about Sweden's historic policy of nonalignment — a policy which the U.S. ambassador, Michael Woods, seemed to suggest was for public consumption only.

Sweden's military and intelligence cooperation with the United States "give the lie to the official policy" of non-participation in military alliances, Woods said. He added in a separate cable that Sweden's Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors fondly remembers his time as a high school student in America and "loves the U.S."

Woods cautioned American officials not to trumpet Sweden-U.S. cooperation in the fight against terrorism too openly.

"The extent of this cooperation in not widely known within the Swedish government," he said. "Public mention of the cooperation would open up the government to domestic criticism."

Woods' comments were front page news in Sweden Thursday, while WikiLeaks dominated the British news agenda as well.

A front page story in The Guardian alleged that one of the leaked cables showed British politicians trying to keep parliament in the dark over the storage of American cluster bombs on U.K. territory — despite an international ban on the weapons signed up to by British authorities. Britain's Foreign Office denied the charge.

Amazon.com Inc., prevented WikiLeaks from using the U.S. company's computers to distribute State Department communications and other documents, WikiLeaks said Wednesday. The WikiLeaks site was inaccessible for several hours before it returned to servers owned by its previous Swedish host, Bahnhof, which are housed in a protective Cold-War era bunker. Tech blogs have compared it to a lair from a James Bond movie.

"We have been under attack and we have had to move to different servers," WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson said. "But we have ways and means to bypass any closure in our services."

Amazon's move to evict WikiLeaks from its servers came after congressional staff called the company to inquire about its relationship with WikiLeaks, Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent, said Wednesday.

"The company's decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material," Lieberman said in a statement. He added that he would have further questions for Amazon about its dealings with WikiLeaks.
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