In a case slower than an Ingmar Bergman movie, more than two months after first accusing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange of rape and sexual molestation, Swedish prosecutors suddenly appear serious. The prosecutor's Website said an international warrant would be issued for Assange.
As in previous instances in the case in which charges were first leaked to a tabloid, then the case was dropped and then resurrected, then left off the radar, the Swedish decision raised many questions.
Mark Stephens, the British lawyer representing Assange and who also represents the Index on Censorship, called the latest Swedish prosecutor's step a violation of European law.
"The behavior of the investigators has been bizarre. I've never seen anything like it in 30 years of legal practice. We haven't been able to answer the specifics of the smear because the investigators won't detail the allegations and they haven't responded to Mr. Assange's voluntary offers to grant an interview." Assange's next step would be to appeal the decision to grant the warrant. Stephens said presenting the requested warrant in court made it possible for his defense to see what he was being accused of for the first time.
Assange's organization has been the target of the Pentagon and much of the mainstream media since it leaked many thousands of documents suggesting the Iraq and Afghan coalitions had withheld information about civil casualties.
Prosecutor Marianne Ny said the detention order was sought because investigators had been unable to contact Assange to speak to him about the case, she said on her office's Website.
Yet the Australian had been in Sweden for more than a month after accusations were made and was interviewed by the local and international media. It was unclear why he had not been questioned while still in the country.
"I request the District Court of Stockholm to detain Mr. Assange in his absence, suspected of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. The reason for my request is that we have not been able to meet with him to accomplish the interrogations,?" said Ny in a statement posted on the Website. It also said: "Due to the ongoing investigation and the parties involved, the prosecutor cannot at the moment give more information concerning the suspicions or which investigation matters have been conducted."
The statement indicates additional allegations have been made, including two more sexual molestations and an accusation of illegal coercion.