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The enigmatic figure, whose organization is in the midst of releasing some 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables that have been embarrassing to the US and, according to some, could damage diplomatic relations around the world, is wanted in Sweden for questioning on rape allegations. Mr. Assange has been absent from public view for nearly a month.
In a statement on its website Dec. 1, the international police organization Interpol said that it had put out a "red notice" for Mr. Assange on Nov. 20 to all 188 member countries. The red notice was only made public this week, however, following official authorization by Sweden, Interpol said.
A red notice is not itself an arrest warrant, but a notification that a warrant exists in one country and that that country will seek extradition of the suspect if arrested, as The Christian Science Monitor reported Tuesday. Some nations treat the notice as request for an arrest.
British newspaper The Independent reported today that police in Britain are “fully aware” of where Assange is staying, but have not authorized his arrest because officials are seeking “clarification” about his Swedish arrest warrant. Assange gave the police contact information when he moved to Britain in October, and Scotland Yard has been in touch with his attorneys for a month, reports the paper. He is believed to be in southeast England.
But unnamed sources told The Independent that Britain’s Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) wants more information on the European Arrest Warrant issued for him by Swedish prosecutors. The Independent describes the warrant as using a “fast-track system for arresting suspects within the EU.”
The revelation comes as circumstances are already looking grim for Assange. On Thursday a Swedish court rejected his attempt to appeal his detention order in Sweden, reports the BBC. He had attempted to appeal court rulings allowing his arrest warrant to be issued. He has not been charged in the alleged rape, sexual molestation, and coercion but is wanted for questioning.
And the Associated Press reported Wednesday that Amazon.com refused to continue hosting WikiLeaks on its servers, and those who run the site were forced to move it back to a Swedish host. The website came under cyber attacks as it released the secret diplomatic cables, causing it to be unavailable at times. Amazon’s decision came after US senators contacted the company about the issue, according to the AP. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has also said the US may want to prosecute Assange for violating secrecy laws or espionage.
Assange’s lawyers have denied the charges against him, and said Swedish authorities have ignored his requests for a meeting. People close to Assange have said he has been subject to death threats. And his mother recently defended him, saying much of what had been written about him is untrue, and he is merely “fighting baddies,” reported The Christian Science Monitor.
But the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks are causing concern in the international community, with some saying they will have far-reaching damage on diplomatic relations. The Monitor reports that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the release “an attack on the international community.”
… Secretary Clinton said that both the furthering of US national interests and the operation of the world’s international political system depend on thousands of confidential exchanges, assessments, and conversations every day.
Far from being a “laudable” effort to make the workings of government transparent, the leaking of classified cables, she said, can have a chilling effect on such US foreign policy goals as the promotion of human rights or expansion of religious freedoms by discouraging the foreign proponents of those goals from working with the US.
The Monitor reports the released cables are unlikely to “lead to any significant geopolitical shifts or fundamental reworkings of US relations with other countries,” but may have a negative impact on the US diplomatic corps in its ability to have open conversations with their counterparts in foreign governments.