STOCKHOLM, (AFP) – Swedish prosecutors said Saturday that the founder of controversial whistleblower website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, was not suspected of rape in Sweden and was no longer wanted for questioning.
“Chief prosecutor Eva Finne has come to the decision that Julian Assange is not suspected of rape,” said a statement on the prosecution service’s website.
Assange was “no longer wanted,” the statement said, adding that Finne would make no other comments on Saturday.
The prosecution service referred a telephone inquiry from AFP to the website.
A prosecution service spokesperson, Karin Rosander, said earlier that “Julian Assange is wanted for two different issues, one of them is that he’s suspected of rape in Sweden.”
“The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing,” said a Twitter message attributed to Assange, whose website is in a stand-off with the Pentagon over secret military documents on Afghanistan.
Prosecutor Maria Haljebo Kjellstrand told the TT news agency that the rape was allegedly committed at Enkoping, near Stockholm, and an assault on another woman in the capital.
A colleague of the 39-year-old Australian, Kristinn Hrafnsson, told AFP: “Julian denies these allegations and says they are false.”
Hrafnsson, who spoke to AFP from Iceland, said Assange knew nothing of the charges until he read about them in the Swedish daily Expressen, which broke the story.
“There are powerful organisations who want to do harm to WikiLeaks,” Hrafnson said, adding that Assange was still in Sweden and would “go to the police very quickly.”
In another statement carried on the website of the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, Assange was quoted as asking why the accusations had surfaced now.
“It’s an interesting question,” he added.
Last week Assange announced at a press conference in Stockholm that the whistleblower website was set to publish a final batch of 15,000 secret documents on the war in Afghanistan in “a couple of weeks.”
The former computer hacker insisted WikiLeaks “will not be threatened by the Pentagon or any other group.”
The Pentagon for its part has said it would not negotiate a “sanitised” release of the documents, as Wikileaks had suggested it might.
WikiLeaks has already released nearly 77,000 secret papers, sparking charges that it had endangered the lives of informants and others named therein.