LONDON (Reuters) - The lawyer of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, wanted in Sweden in connection with alleged sex crimes, denied a proper European arrest warrant was in place despite Stockholm’s insistence that technical problems with the warrant were resolved.
Assange, the 39-year-old Australian whose WikiLeaks website this week created an international furor by leaking a mass of U.S. diplomatic cables, is facing prosecution in Sweden over the allegations, which he has denied.
His London lawyer, Mark Stephens, said Thursday Assange is willing to talk to Swedish authorities but would not say where he currently is.
Tuesday, international police agency Interpol said it had issued a “red notice” which allows arrest warrants issued by national police authorities to be circulated to other countries to facilitate arrests and help possible extradition.
“There is no arrest warrant against him. There was an Interpol red notice, which is not a warrant, alerting authorities to monitor his movements,” Stephens told Reuters.
“The arrest warrant was sent back by Scotland Yard (London police) because it did not comply with the law and was defective.”
Assange spends much of his time in Sweden, and earlier this year was accused of sexual misconduct by two Swedish women. Swedish prosecutors opened, then dropped, then re-opened an investigation into the allegations.
Sweden has authorized a warrant for his arrest on suspicion of “rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion.” But Assange has not been formally charged with any crime in Sweden.
Stephens would not reveal Assange’s location because of death threats made against him and told Reuters his client had not been informed of the allegations against him.
“We are in this position where we have never been told what the allegations are against him, we do know that he hasn’t been charged, we do know that he has only been asked for as a witness,” he said.
“We know that ... the offence is one of ‘sex by surprise’, which is not an offence known in England. He has not been given the evidence against him.”
Stephens said Assange was willing to meet Swedish prosecutors but they did not want to meet him.
“We are in a very, very surreal situation at the moment it’s like a Swedish fairytale.”
Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi, Editing by Michael Holden and Sonya Hepinstall