British police know Assange location: lawyer

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British police know the whereabouts of Julian Assange, his lawyer said Thursday amid reports that they have failed to detain the WikiLeaks founder because of an error in a Swedish arrest warrant.

Newspapers in Britain reported that the 39-year-old Australian was believed to be in southeast England and that Scotland Yard had been in touch with his legal team for weeks but had been hamstrung by Stockholm's mistake.

"Scotland Yard know where he is, the security services from a number of countries know where is," Mark Stephens, Assange's London-based lawyer, told AFP.

"The (British) police are being slightly foxy in their answers, but they know exactly how to get in touch with him, as do the Swedish prosecutors."

Asked about the reports that the nomadic former computer hacker was in southeast England, Stephens said: "I have not said that. I am not saying where he is."

A WikiLeaks spokesman said on Wednesday that Assange had to remain out of the public eye because he had faced assassination threats following the whistleblowing website's publication of secret US diplomatic cables.

Swedish police said Thursday they would issue a new international warrant for Assange on suspicion of "rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion" to replace one that could not be applied because of a procedural error.

The announcement came after Sweden's supreme court refused to hear an appeal by Assange against the warrant which relates to events in Sweden in August.

Interpol has also placed him on a wanted list.

The Times and the Independent quoted British police sources as saying that Assange had supplied Scotland Yard with his contact details when he arrived in the country in October.

They have his telephone number and know where he is staying, the police sources said.

Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency, which certifies extradition requests received from outside Britain, nor Scotland Yard, which acts on them, both refused to confirm the reports.

"We do not discuss any purported communication regarding extradition cases unless a person has been placed before the City of Westminster Magistrates Court," a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

Stephens has said the Interpol move may be related to US anger over the revelations by WikiLeaks, which has also published papers on the Iraq and Afghan wars in recent months.

He said Swedish authorities had failed to provide him with the warrant or any documents about the warrant, adding: "The procedure is so irregular that one has to assume that the warrant is inappropriate."

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said on Wednesday Assange was working on the diplomatic cables project at a secret location because of the risk to his safety, not because he was trying to evade the Swedish warrant.

"We have had threats from governments and commentators, some of them totally preposterous, even calls for the assassination of Julian Assange," Hrafnsson said during a debate at the Frontline Club in London.

"He claims he is innocent (of the charges in Sweden) and I believe him."

© 2010 AFP

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