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Swedish police to renew Assange arrest warrant

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Swedish police to renew Assange arrest warrant
16:38 CET+01:00
Swedish police on Thursday confirmed that a new international arrest warrant will be issued for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, conceding that the first could not be applied in Britain due to a procedural error.

"We have to refresh the warrant. It's a procedural fault, we agree. The prosecutor Marianne Ny has to write a new one," Tommy Kangasvieri of the Swedish National Criminal Police told AFP.

"The procedure demands that the maximum penalty for all crimes Assange is suspected for is written in the warrant", he explained. "We described it only for the rape."

Kangasvieri could not say how long it would take Swedish police to issue

the new warrant for the Internet whistleblower, whose site has embarrassed

world leaders by publishing thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables.

Britain's Times newspaper reported Thursday that British police knew where the 39-year-old Australian was -- believed to be a location in southeast England -- but could not act on the information as the European arrest warrant was incorrectly filled out. The Swedish police initially denied that an an error had been made.

Sweden's Supreme Court said Thursday it had refused to hear Assange's appeal to overturn the district court ruling, which was his last possible chance to block the warrant.

Assange's Swedish lawyer Björn Hurtig had taken the case to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, after a first petition was rejected by the Stockholm Appeals court in late November.

Hurtig told AFP on Thursday that he would fight his client's extradition to Sweden if Assange is arrested.

"Together with my British colleague Mark Stephens and international experts, we will fight the extradition warrants," Hurtig told AFP.

Mark Stephens meanwhile on Thursday supported claims that British police know of the elusive whistleblower's whereabouts.

"Scotland Yard know where he is, the security services from a number of countries know where is," Stephens told AFP.

"The (British) police are being slightly foxy in their answers, but they know exactly how to get in touch with him, as do the Swedish prosecutors."

Asked about the reports that the nomadic former computer hacker was in southeast England, Stephens said: "I have not said that. I am not saying where

he is."

The Times and the Independent quoted British police sources as saying that

Assange had supplied Scotland Yard with his contact details when he arrived in

the country in October.

They have his telephone number and know where he is staying, the police

sources said.

Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which certifies extradition requests received from outside Britain, and Scotland Yard, which acts on them, both refused to confirm the reports.

"We do not discuss any purported communication regarding extradition cases unless a person has been placed before the City of Westminster Magistrates Court," a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

Stephens has said the Interpol move to place Assange on its wanted list may be related to US anger over the revelations by WikiLeaks, which has also published papers on the Iraq and Afghan wars in recent months.

He said Swedish authorities had failed to provide him with the warrant or any documents about the warrant, adding: "The procedure is so irregular that one has to assume that the warrant is inappropriate."

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said on Wednesday Assange was working on the diplomatic cables project at a secret location because of the risk to his safety, not because he was trying to evade the Swedish warrant.

"We have had threats from governments and commentators, some of them totally preposterous, even calls for the assassination of Julian Assange," Hrafnsson said during a debate at the Frontline Club in London.

"He claims he is innocent (of the charges in Sweden) and I believe him."

The global police agency Interpol said Wednesday it had alerted member states to arrest WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange on suspicion of rape on the basis of a Swedish arrest warrant.

"There is a public 'Red Notice' on behalf of Sweden," a spokeswoman told AFP, confirming that Interpol had posted Sweden's request for assistance in tracking down the 39-year-old Australian on its website.

The Stockholm district court had ordered on November 18th an arrest warrant for Assange for questioning on suspicion of "rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion" in Sweden in August.

The court order authorized Ny, who had requested Assange's detention, to prepare an international arrest warrant for the famous hacker, who travels constantly.

Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks started publishing some 250,000 US embassy cables on Sunday, which has infuriated Washington and embarrassed many governments worldwide.

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