Sweden reopens WikiLeaks founder rape probe

Wednesday 01 September 2010 14:21

Sweden's chief prosecutor today said she was reopening a preliminary investigation into rape charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that a lower official had withdrawn two weeks ago.

Neither Assange, who has denied the charges, nor his lawyer could be immediately reached for comment.

WikiLeaks published more than 70,000 secret military files on Afghanistan in July in what U.S. officials have called one of the biggest security breaches in U.S. military history.

Assange has said he has been warned by Australian intelligence that he could face a campaign to discredit him after leaking the documents.

Chief Prosecutor Marianne Ny said the decision to reopen the probe was taken after further review of the case.

"There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed. Considering information available at present, my judgement is that the classification of the crime is rape," Ny said in a statement on the Prosecution Authority's website.

"More investigations are neccessary before a final decision can be made," she added.

The chief prosecutor also said a preliminary investigation into charges of molestation against Assange would be expanded to include sexual harassment.

Allegations of rape and molestation were brought against Assange, an Australian citizen, two weeks ago.

The more serious charge was dropped almost immediately, though prosecutors continued to look into the molestation charge.

WikiLeaks says it is an non-profit organisation funded by human rights campaigners, journalists and the general public.

It promotes the leaking of information to fight government and corporate corruption. Earlier this year, it leaked a classified video showing a 2007 helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists.

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