Wikileaks boss was in London Thursday: lawyer

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was in London earlier Thursday but his current whereabouts are unclear, his lawyer in Britain said, speaking ahead of a Swedish court decision to order Assange's arrest.

Attorney Mark Stephens said the founder of the whistleblowing website had repeatedly offered to be questioned both in Sweden and in Britain over the charges of rape and sexual molestation, adding that the case was "not a prosecution, but a persecution."

Speaking before the Swedish court made its decision and prosecutors said they would issue an international warrant, Stephens said his client had been in London "this morning" but he did not know his whereabouts later in the day.

"He moves around and keeps his location fairly discreet but, that said, he hasn't run away from this. He has sought to vindicate his name," Stephens told AFP.

Assange has strongly denied the charges.

In a statement that was also issued before the ruling, Stephens said that the prosecutor's decision pursuing the arrest warrant was "entirely unnecessary and disproportionate".

"This action is in contravention both of European Conventions and makes a mockery of arrangements between Sweden and the United Kingdom designed to deal with just such situations.

"Despite his right to silence, my client has repeatedly offered to be interviewed, first in Sweden before he left, and then subsequently in the UK (including at the Swedish Embassy), either in person or by telephone, videoconferencing or email and he has also offered to make a sworn statement on affidavit.

"All of these offers have been flatly refused by a prosecutor who is abusing her powers."

Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency said it did not comment on international arrest warrants until the person involved had been detained.

"In a case of any international or European arrest warrant you need to speak to the serving authority. We cannot comment on any warrant being possibly received," said a spokesman for the agency.

Under British law, foreign arrest warrants must be certified by the agency and if the subject is in Britain they are then detained, usually by Scotland Yard's extradition unit, a police source said.

The detainee would then appear in a magistrates court in central London for an extradition hearing. If the court orders their extradition the person can appeal against the decision.

WikiLeaks last month published 400,000 classified US documents on the Iraq war. It enraged US authorities by posting 77,000 secret US files on the Afghan conflict in July.

© 2010 AFP

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