WikiLeaks' Jullian Assange Arrested in London...denied bail
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange surrendered to U.K. police Tuesday as part of a Swedish sex-crimes investigation, the latest blow to an organization that faces legal, financial and technological challenges after releasing hundreds of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
Swedish prosecutors issued the arrest warrant for the 39-year-old Australian, who is accused of rape and sexual molestation in one case and of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in another.
Assange surrendered at 9:30 a.m. local time (4:30 a.m. ET) Tuesday. The U.K.'s Guardian newspaper reported that Assange later arrived at a London court accompanied by British lawyers Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson. He was expected to release a video statement later in the day.
During his court appearance, Assange said he would fight extradition to Sweden. He provided the court with an Australian address. Britain's Sky News reported that Assange was receiving consular assistance from officials at the Australian High Commission.
An official earlier told the Associated Press that if he challenged extradition, Assange would likely be remanded into custody or released on bail until another judge rules on whether to extradite him.
NBC News reported that several supporters gathered outside the court holding placards reading "Gagging the truth" and "Protect free speech."
Assange had been hiding out at an undisclosed location in Britain since WikiLeaks began publishing hundreds of U.S. diplomatic cables online last month.
The legal troubles for Assange stem from allegations leveled against him by two women he met while in Sweden over the summer.
Assange denies the allegations, which Stephens says stem from a "dispute over consensual but unprotected sex." Assange and Stephens have suggested that the prosecution is being manipulated for political reasons.
'He is not violent'
One of the women involved in the sexual abuse allegations told the Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet that she had had voluntary relations with him and had never wanted him to be charged with rape, the Guardian said.
"He is not violent and I do not feel threatened by him," she said — anonymously — according to the paper.
A spokesman for WikiLeaks called Assange's arrest an attack on media freedom and said it won't prevent the organization from releasing more secret documents.
"This will not change our operation," Kristinn Hrafnsson told The Associated Press.
Also on Tuesday, The Australian newspaper published an op-ed by Assange in which he says WikiLeaks is "fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public."
British police have been caught in the middle of the legal dispute over WikiLeaks and Assange's rape accusations, a former assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police told msnbc.com Tuesday.
"This is a set of circumstances that the Metropolitan Police will not want to get folded into," Andy Hayman said. " They got drawn into it. Ultimately it's between his lawyers, the Swedish authorities and possibly the Americans."
Hayman added that it was now up to Sweden to prove to the U.K. that there were grounds to extradite Assange.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, visiting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, was pleased by the arrest.
"That sounds like good news to me," he said.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reported that WikiLeaks had no plans to issue an encrypted version of its documents — which has been called a "poison pill" — that could be published instantly, as it had threatened to do if its staff were arrested.
The organization's room to maneuver has been narrowing by the day. It has been battered by Web attacks, cut off by Internet service providers and is the subject of a criminal investigation in the United States, where officials say the release jeopardized national security and diplomatic efforts around the world.
But amid Assange's personal legal troubles, his website continued to reveal state secrets.
According to the latest diplomatic cables — reported by the Guardian — NATO has drawn up secret plans to defend the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and Poland against any Russian threat.