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Lawyers connect Interpol alert to WikiLeaks anger

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Lawyers connect Interpol alert to WikiLeaks anger
16:11 CET+01:00
The Swedish and British lawyers representing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday linked the pursuit of their client by Interpol to US reactions to the recent release of secret diplomatic cables.

UK-based Media lawyer Mark Stephens refused, however, to give the whereabouts of the 39-year-old Australian, for whom the global police agency issued a so-called "red notice" for questioning on suspicion of rape on behalf of Sweden.

"This is a persecution and not a prosecution," Stephens said in a statement.

"At this point in time we have no evidence pointing to a link between these allegations from August and the issue of the Interpol alert just two days after the WikiLeaks first release of US diplomatic cables," Stephens said.

"However, it is highly unusual for a red notice warrant to be issued in relation to the allegations reported as having been made, since Swedish law does not require custodial orders in relation to the allegation."

He said it appeared to be a "unique action" by Swedish prosecutors.

The statement mirrored comments by Assange's Swedish lawyer, Björn Hurtig on Wednesday afternoon. While WikiLeaks have on occasion linked the allegations to a "hidden US agenda", Assange's lawyers have not until now.

"It is very surprising that Interpol takes such extreme measures for something that the appeals court has said is less serious. This seems ridiculous," he said while raising the possibility that there may be other motives behind the refusal of Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny to allow Assange a hearing by videolink or at a Swedish embassy.

"There must be something else behind this. Is my immediate reaction. And that is of course WikiLeaks. Then it is up to each and everyone to draw their own conclusions," Hurtig said, with Mark Stephens even comparing Ny to Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, Stalin's notorious security chief.

"We are also investigating whether the prosecutor's application to have Mr Assange held incommunicado without access to lawyers, visitors or other prisoners -- again a unique request -- is in any way linked to this matter (the WikiLeaks data release) and the recent, rather bellicose US statements of an intention to prosecute Mr Assange."

Hurtig went on to repeat Assange's assertion that he had repeatedly made himself available to the Swedish authorities for interview and that he had sought permission to leave Sweden, repeatedly describing Marianne Ny as "the prosecutrix".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused WikiLeaks on Monday of an "attack on the international community" by releasing the vast trove of leaked US diplomat memos containing a string of embarrassing revelations.

Earlier this month Stephens told AFP that Assange was in Britain, but he did not give details on where his client was now.

Sweden's International Public Prosecution Office in Gothenburg issued an arrest warrant for the secretive activist on November 18th, citing "probable cause of suspected rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion."

Assange has contested Sweden's international arrest warrant in a Stockholm appeals court, but his first bid to get it thrown out was rejected last week and he has lodged a second appeal.

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