Sweden says it will issue a fresh arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as new revelations from his website’s expose of US diplomatic cables saw Russia branded a “mafia state”.
While the elusive whistleblower laid low, his British lawyer insisted on Thursday police knew his whereabouts and it emerged that an initial warrant was defective.
After the Supreme Court in Stockholm refused to hear an appeal by Assange against the initial warrant over allegations of rape and molestation, Swedish police said they would issue a new one as a result of a procedural error.
“It’s a procedural fault,” Tommy Kangasvieri of the Swedish National Criminal Police told AFP. “The prosecutor, Marianne Ny, has to write a new one.”
While Assange has not been seen in public since WikiLeaks began leaking about 250,000 cables on Sunday, his London-based lawyer Mark Stephens denied he was on the run.
“Scotland Yard know where he is, the security services from a number of countries know where he is,” Stephens 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.”
‘Assange in southeast England’
Britain’s Times newspaper said Assange was at a location in southeast England although there was no confirmation from Stephens.
After former US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin said the WikiLeaks team should be treated like a terrorist organisation, a spokesman for the website said Assange feared for his life.
“When you have people calling, for example, for his assassination, it is best to keep a low profile,” Kristinn Hrafnsson said in London, after right-wing US websites and pundits called for him to be assassinated.
Assange’s mother also expressed fear for her son’s safety.
“I’m concerned it’s gotten too big and the forces that he’s challenging are too big,” Christine Assange told the Courier Mail, her local newspaper in Queensland, Australia.
Assange’s Stockholm-based lawyer Bjoern Hurtig told AFP Thursday he would fight his client’s extradition to Sweden in the event of his arrest.
The US State Department’s spokesman described Assange as an “anarchist” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to smooth feathers ruffled by the leaks as she toured Central Asia.
Some of the most eye-catching of the latest revelations centred on Russia, with one memo quoting a Spanish prosecutor describing it as a virtual “mafia state” whose political parties operate “hand in hand” with organised crime.
Jose Gonzalez, who has been investigating Russian organised crime in Spain for a decade, also agreed with poisoned dissident Alexander Litvinenko’s thesis that Russian intelligence and security services “owned organised crime.”
In a separate leaked cable sent shortly after Litvinenko’s death in London in 2006, US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried questioned whether Russian Prime Minister Putin knew beforehand of the plot to kill the dissident.
In a meeting with a senior French diplomat, Fried asked “whether rogue security elements could operate… without Putin’s knowledge”, given the leader’s “attention to detail.”
The cables have also quoted Defense Secretary Robert Gates as saying “Russian democracy has disappeared” and describing President Dmitry Medvedev as “Robin” to Putin’s “Batman”.
But in an interview with CNN, Putin said Gates was “deeply misled” and warned US officials not to “interfere” in Russia’s internal politics.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also had sharp words for Washington, saying the cables highlighted US hubris.
“They have laid bare a mindset in which the Americans thought they were better than other,” he told Brazilian radio.
As the leaks piled on embarrassment for his administration, President Barack Obama named Russell Travers, an anti-terrorism expert, to lead efforts to mitigate the damage and prevent future illegal data disclosures.
The State Department has temporarily suspended Pentagon access to some documents. WikiLeaks is believed to have obtained the cables from Bradley Manning, a disgruntled army intelligence officer.
WikiLeaks was thrown off its web host, Amazon, best known as a book retailer. After several hours, WikiLeaks was again accessible in the United States via a European server.
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