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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested in London

The founder of the WikiLeaks website, Julian Assange, has been arrested by British police on a European warrant. Swedish prosecutors issued the arrest order in connection with allegations of sexual crimes.

Julian Assange

The Metropolitan police say Assange was arrested early Tuesday

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London on Tuesday on suspicion of rape, after an arrest warrant was issued by Swedish authorities.

The 39-year-old Australian denies all charges.

"He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010," London police said in a statement.

Assange had been hiding out at an undisclosed location in Britain since the whistle-blowing website began publishing thousands of US diplomatic cables on the internet last week.

Extradition possible

Scotland Yard said Assange surrendered at 9.30 am local time after a pre-arranged appointment at a London police station. Assange's lawyers said that he had agreed to speak with the police following the receipt of a European Union arrest warrant on Monday.

A man looks at a rack of newspapers for sale

WikiLeaks has made headlines around the world

His lawyers said he would fight extradition to Sweden, saying they feared he could then be handed on to the United States where WikiLeaks and Assange are seen as threats to national security.

"I think he will get a fair hearing here in Britain but I think our, his, prospects if he were ever to be returned to the US, which is a real threat, of a fair trial, is, in my view, nigh on impossible," one of Assange's London-based lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Wanted man

Over the past year, WikiLeaks has released secret documents from the US government on topics ranging from the wars in Iraq and Afhganistan to the current wave of releases that publicizes internal documents from US State Department diplomats from around the world.

On Monday, US Attorney General Eric Holder was looking into possible criminal implications stemming from the leaks.

Screen shot of a computer

The leaked documents ruffled feathers in the US

According to a statement from WikiLeaks, Assange's arrest will not affect the website's operation and they "will release more cables tonight as normal."

Assange is due to appear before City of Westminster Magistrates Court in London later on Tuesday. If a judge calls for an extradition hearing, it must take place within 21 days, and Assange could be quickly delivered to Sweden.

However, Assange does have the right to appeal to higher courts.

Author: Catherine Bolsover, Matt Zuvela (Reuters/AP/AFP)
Editor: Rob Turner

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