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Assange claims 'smear campaign'
Wikileaks founder says Australian intelligence warned him on August 11 to expect personal attacks.
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2010 18:28 GMT
Wikileaks founder tells Al Jazeera that charges against him may be linked to an intelligence operation

Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, has said the now-dropped charge of rape levelled against him in Sweden was "a smear campaign".

Assange told Al Jazeera on Sunday that while he had been forewarned by Australian intelligence on August 11 to expect a campaign against him, it was unclear who was behind it.

"It is clearly a smear campaign ... the only question is who was involved.

"We can have some suspicions about who would benefit, but without direct evidence I would not be willing to make a direct allegation."

Assange said that the accusations were completely untrue and expected all charges to be dropped on Monday, adding that his lawyers were in the process of arranging a meeting with the prosecutors.

He also said that this was just one of many attempts to discredit him.

"This is the first sexual related we've had, but we have seen 14 fabricated
documents, for example, that have appeared in various places about this organisation which have been shown to be clear fakes," he said. 

"So there are significant forces pushing to perceive things in a particular way".

'No mistake'

Swedish authorities had initially issued a warrant for Assange's arrest on Friday night, but dropped the warrant and the rape charge the next day.

Eva Finne, the country's chief prosecutor, reviewed the evidence and withdrew the warrant for his arrest,deciding there was "no longer reason to believe" Assange had committed rape, Karin Rosander, a spokeswoman for Finne, said.

"You can't call it a mistake because the prosecutor in question has to make a decision based on the information available at the moment of the decision," Rosander told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

Finne's office has not contacted Assange and is not searching for him and will make a decision whether to pursue the molestation charge later this week, Rosander said.

The charges against Assange, which come around a month after Wikileaks incensed the US government by releasing a trove of American military informationabout the war in Afghanistan, quickly spread around the internet.

New document leaks

After the Swedish tabloid Expressen first published reportsthat the arrest warrant had been issued for Assange, Wikileaks responded on Twitter:"We were warned to expect 'dirty tricks.' Now we have the first one.

Sweden's national prosecution office insists the issuing of a warrant was normal procedure

"No one here has been contacted by Swedish police. Needless to say this will prove hugely distracting."

Assange's organisation caused controversy in Julywhen it released 75,000 classified US military reports containing information about the Nato war effort in Afghanistan.

The US government condemned the release of the documents, saying the website had "blood on its hands" for naming people who had helped its military against groups such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and ordered Wikileaks to return the files.

Assange told Al Jazeera those claims were "an extraordinary thing to hear".

"The Pentagon so far says it not aware of any incident of people coming to harm by what we have released. At the time of the release we took aside 15,000 documents that we believed needed extra careful review and those are the documents we are reviewing and will be released."

According to Assange, the documents will be released within the next two to four weeks.

Two alleged victims

Two women in their twenties made the allegations against Assange, according to Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan, reporting from London.

One woman claimed Assange raped her last weekend in Stockholm, while another alleged he molested her on Tuesday in a separate town in Sweden, Brennan said.

"I think it's quite natural that these rumors happen in a very famous case like this, and I'm not surprised at all," Rosander, the prosecutor's spokeswoman, told Al Jazeera.

She said she could not give any details on the allegations.

Assange was in Sweden last week partly to apply for a publishing certificate to maintain the advantages it receives from the country's whistle-blowing protection laws. Wikileaks also has many of its servers in Sweden.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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