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Assange hires top Swedish defence lawyer

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Assange hires top Swedish defence lawyer
07:15 CEST+02:00
Leif Silbersky, one of Sweden's most high profile defence lawyers, has been hired by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange ahead of a looming decision by prosecutors

about whether he will face molestation charges, reports said Tuesday.

"I can confirm that I will represent him," Silbersky told the Aftonbladet daily.

Swedish prosecutors on Friday night issued an arrest warrant for 39-year-old Assange over an allegation of rape but then abruptly withdrew it on Saturday.

Authorities are still, however, investigating a separate claim of molestation against the former hacker.

Assange has said the claims are part of a smear campaign aimed at discrediting his whistleblowing website, which is locked in a row with the Pentagon over the release of secret US documents about the war in Afghanistan.

The Swedish chief prosecutor in charge of the case, Eva Finné, said on Tuesday that she would not reach a decision before Wednesday on whether to formally press charges against Assange.

Silbersky said Tuesday his client did not know what charges, if any, he would face and had sought representation to help navigate the Swedish legal system.

"There have been a number of legal twists and turns, with rape (allegations) boiling down to something different, and we don't know where this will end," Silbersky told the TT news agency.

A lawyer representing the two women aged 25 to 35 who originally made the claims against Assange denied that the allegations were part of a plot to harm WikiLeaks, as the website's founder had said.

"This is not a smear campaign," Claes Borgström told AFP. "This has nothing to do with WikiLeaks or the CIA."

Borgström added that the two women had gone to police separately over different alleged incidents and had no links to anyone who would be interested in discrediting the website.

Swedish prosecutors have faced heavy criticism at home for their handling of the case, especially for the decision on Friday evening to confirm media reports that the initial allegation involved Assange.

A judicial watchdog on Tuesday reported the duty prosecutor who made the call for breaching rules regarding preliminary investigation confidentiality.

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