STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A Swedish court on Thursday ordered the detention of Julian Assange, the founder of whistle blowing website WikiLeaks, on suspicion of rape and other sexual crimes, allegations he denies.
Assange’s lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, told journalists after the hearings he expected a European arrest warrant would be issued for Assange, who had sometimes visited Sweden in the past, and that he would probably appeal.
“He maintains his complete innocence,” Hurtig said.
He declined to answer questions as to the whereabouts of Assange, an Australian citizen.
“But sooner or later he has to come to Sweden if this continues,” Hurtig said.
The prosecutor’s office began an investigation into allegations of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion against Assange in September.
“The reason for my request (to the court) is that we need to interrogate him. So far, we have not been able to meet him to carry out the interrogations,” said Marianne Ny, leading the case for the Prosecution Authority.
Assange has called the allegations baseless and criticized what he has called a legal circus in Sweden, where he had been seeking to build a base in order to benefit from its strict journalist protection laws.
He has said that he had been warned by Australian intelligence before the charges were brought that he could face a campaign to discredit him.
Hurtig played down talk of a plot. “I don’t think so, at least not from the CIA or from any big organization,” he told journalists.
WikiLeaks has angered the Pentagon with its releases of documents related to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The latest leak, in October, was of nearly 400,000 classified U.S. files on the Iraq war, which Assange has said showed 15,000 more Iraqi civilian deaths than thought. Assange said this month he may seek political asylum in Switzerland.
Editing by Matthew Jones