WikiLeaks Founder: Pentagon Could Be Behind Rape Claim
(Aug. 22) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a Swedish newspaper today that he believes the Pentagon could be behind a rape allegation that was filed against him on Friday, and was quickly withdrawn by Swedish prosecutors.
"I don't know who's behind this but we have been warned that, for example, the Pentagon plans to use dirty tricks to spoil things for us," he told the Aftonbladet daily. "I have also been warned about sex traps."
The Pentagon hasn't commented on the case. Since its launch in 2006, WikiLeaks has published thousands of leaked documents about the activities of American and allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the whistleblower site is currently preparing to put 15,000 more classified military documents on the Afghan War online in coming weeks, despite warnings from the U.S. administration that it could place the lives of soldiers and Afghan civilians at risk.
Assange has been in Sweden for the past week attempting to win support for a change to the legal system that would boost protection for whistleblower sites like WikiLeaks. Late Friday, prosecutors in the Scandinavian country issued an arrest warrant for him after an unnamed woman claimed she had been the victim of a sexual assault. However, that warrant -- issued by an "on-call" prosecutor according to The Associated Press -- was canceled the following day by a higher-ranking prosecutor, who found no grounds to suspect him of rape.
"The prosecutor who took over the case yesterday had more information, and that is why she made a different assessment than the on-call prosecutor," Karin Rosander, a spokeswoman for the Swedish Prosecution Authority, told the news agency. She refused to clarify what the new evidence was, but said there was "absolutely nothing" to suggest either prosecutor had made a mistake.
Although the warrant has now been withdrawn, Assange says it has already damaged both his and his site's reputation. "There have been headlines all over the world saying I'm suspected of rape," he told Aftonbladet. "They will not disappear. And I know from experience that WikiLeaks enemies will continue to trumpet these allegations even after they've been denied."
The Australian still remains under suspicion of a lesser crime of molestation, based on a claim filed by another woman. That crime covers a wide of range of offenses under Swedish law, including inappropriate physical contact with another adult, and can be punished with fines or up to one year in prison.
Assange told the Swedish daily that he had "no idea" about the identity of the women who filed the allegations, and said that he had never had non-consensual sex. "It was shocking [to hear about these claims]," he told Aftonbladet. "I have been accused of various things in recent years, but nothing as serious as this."