STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will fight any bid to extradite him to Sweden over sexual misconduct allegations, and suspects foreign powers are influencing the authorities, his Swedish lawyer said on Friday.
The Swedish prosecutor’s office said information needed for a European arrest warrant in the case had been supplied to Britain, where media reports say Assange is staying.
In a telephone interview, his lawyer Bjorn Hurtig declined to say where Assange was right now, or when he had last spoken to him, though he said they were in “constant contact.”
But he said any attempt to extradite him from another country, for example from Britain, would be resisted in court:
“If it is in a country where they speak English, I know that my co-counsel Mark Stephens will help me in fighting this extradition order and he will do so vigorously.”
Assange has spent much of his time in Sweden lately, and was accused earlier this year of sexual misconduct by two female Swedish WikiLeaks volunteers.
Prosecutors opened, then dropped, then reopened an investigation, but Assange has not been formally charged with any crime, and denies any wrongdoing.
Hurtig said Assange, whose organization has embarrassed the U.S. government by publishing leaked confidential embassy reports, was taking precautions over recent death threats. This made him concerned about returning to Sweden:
“We are discussing what we’ll do right now, I can say that. There is one thing that makes things harder right now and that is the threats against Julian.”
He said Assange had made himself available to speak with Swedish authorities, including the prosecutor handling the case, at an embassy abroad, but this offer had been rejected.
Assange earlier offered to travel to Sweden to answer questions but authorities could not make themselves available at any of the suggested times, he said.
Hurtig said the measures taken by both Swedish and international authorities made him suspicious, though he said he did not suspect foul play from a foreign power with respect to the accusations.
“I have seen the documents, and I can’t say that I think it is a set-up by the CIA or something,” he said.
“But I suspect that there is someone else who is pushing Sweden to (take) these most unproportional measures that they are doing right now, and is pushing Sweden to push Interpol to make this arrest warrant public.
“I think somebody has an interest in getting Julian to Sweden and maybe asking for him to be extradited to another country (from there).”
Editing by Kevin Liffey