WikiLeaks probed Swedish journos: report

Swedish journalists were the subject of a secret probe by WikiLeaks aimed at exposing what leaders of the whistleblower website are convinced is a conspiracy by Sweden against founder Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks probed Swedish journos: report

According to Swedish tabloid Expressen, WikiLeaks tasked a team of activists to secretly investigate the newspaper’s editor, Thomas Mattson, as well as Ulrika Knutson, the head of Sweden’s National Press Club (Publicistklubben).

“They have ascertained that at least three reporters who work for two different media houses are involved in the conspiracy,” WikiLeaks sources told Expressen.

“They have surreptitiously photographed people suspected of being involved in the conspiracy against Assange, they have also accessed information from public records and gained access to secret material from government databases.”

Expressen is the Swedish newspaper which first reported in August 2010 that Assange had been accused of sex crimes and that a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

WikiLeaks and Assange have long claimed that the sex crimes accusations are part of a larger conspiracy against him in response to the websites release of thousands of sensitive US diplomatic cables.

According to Expressen’s sources, WikiLeaks leaders believe Swedish journalists, politicians, and government officials are involved in the alleged conspiracy and have been working on measures to “reveal the conspiracy” in order to prevent Assange from eventually being extradited to the US.

When told WikiLeaks had been gathering information on her, National Press Club head Knutson told Expressen “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry”.

According to Expressen editor Mattson, “WikiLeaks has attacked Expressen” ever since the paper’s scoop regarding the sex crime allegations against Assange.

“I consider the investigation of me and other Swedish journalists as an attempt to find something that can be used to question relevant news coverage about Wikileaks,” he said.

Writing about the matter on his official blog, Mattson emphasized the importance of distinguishing the work of WikiLeaks from Assange.

“WikiLeaks is important. But Assange is irresponsible when he criticizes independent media like this,” wrote Matsson.

“The attempt to map Swedish publishers like Ulrika Knutson and me in the hope of being able to expose a conspiracy in which journalists accept payment to write negatively about WikiLeaks unfortunately shows a complete lack of knowledge about how independent news gathering works.”

WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson denied the website had engaged in any sort of probe of Mattson or other Swedish journalists.

“No, I’m not aware of any investigation taken place,” she told Expressen.

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Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer

Julian Assange would cooperate with Swedish authorities if they reopen a rape case against him but will continue to resist any bid to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said Sunday.

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer
Julian Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson in London on Thursday. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham/TT

“We are absolutely happy to answer those queries if and when they come up,” Jennifer Robinson told Sky News television about the rape claims.

“The key issue at the moment is US extradition, which we have warned about for many years,” she added.

The WikiLeaks founder is in custody in London awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was arrested at the embassy on Thursday after Ecuador gave him up, and is now also fighting a US extradition warrant relating to the release by WikiLeaks of a huge cache of official documents.

The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The first expired in 2015 and the other was dropped in 2017, but the alleged rape victim has now asked for the case to be reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, the British government will have to decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.

Robinson said Assange would seek assurances from Sweden that he would not be sent on to America, saying: “That is the same assurance we were seeking in 2010 and the refusal to give that is why he sought asylum.”

She added: “He's not above the law. Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or indeed Swedish justice. This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice.”

The US indictment charges Assange with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

He faces up to five years in jail.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

But Robinson insisted: “This indictment clearly engages newsgathering activities and the kinds of communications that journalists have with sources all the time.”

The lawyer condemned as “outrageous” claims made by Ecuador about Assange's behaviour in the embassy, including that he smeared his faeces on the wall, saying: “That's not true.”

Quito also accused him of failing to care for his cat. WikiLeaks said Assange had asked his lawyers to “rescue him (the cat) from embassy threats” in October, adding: “They will be reunited in freedom.”

Assange's father, John Shipton, on Sunday urged Australia to bring his son home.