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Swedish authorities have issued a fresh arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange faces new warrant

Swedish authorities have issued a fresh arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange following a procedural error with the first.

The detention order for Mr Assange, who is believed to be in Britain, concerns alleged sexual crimes during a visit to Sweden in August. Swedish police said the UK needed the maximum penalties for the crimes to be stipulated on the order.

Mr Assange has not been charged and denies the allegations. He says they are part of a smear campaign against him. Earlier, Sweden’s top court rejected an attempt by Mr Assange to appeal against the detention order, saying an earlier ruling would stand.

His legal battle comes amid the phased release of some 250,000 US diplomatic secret messages, called cables, by the whistle-blowing Wikileaks website. In the latest cables, US officials say that Russia has become a “virtual mafia state” with widespread corruption, bribery and protection rackets.

Secret location

A spokeswoman for the Swedish National Police Board told the BBC that Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency had requested a new order as the original one had listed only the maximum penalty for the most serious crime alleged, rather than for all of the crimes.

The original Stockholm district court arrest warrant for Mr Assange issued on 18 November was for suspicion of “rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion”. The Svea Court of Appeals later upheld the detention order and the Supreme Court has now backed that ruling.

“The Supreme Court has reviewed the material and did not find reason to grant the leave to appeal,” court documents said, adding that the Supreme Court only looked at exceptional cases and the interpretation of law.

The case relates to the allegations of two women surrounding Mr Assange’s visit in August. The police spokeswoman could not confirm how long it would take to issue the new warrant.

Mr Assange’s lawyer says any arrest warrant would be challenged in court. “The process in this case has been so utterly irregular that the chances of a valid arrest warrant being submitted to me are very small,” Mark Stephens told the Associated Press news agency on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said Mr Assange was at a secret location. “When you have people calling for his assassination, it is best to keep a low profile,” he said. ‘Mafia state’ Wikileaks is currently working through the publication of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables. The US has condemned the disclosures as an attack on the world community. In the latest cables, Russia is described as a “virtual mafia state”.

The cables, published by The Guardian newspaper, paint a picture of a corrupt Russia centred around the leadership of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Bribery in the political system totals an estimated $300bn (£192bn) a year, the paper says. In one cable from January 2010, Spanish prosecutor Jose “Pepe” Grinda Gonzales, who led a long investigation into Russian organised crime in Spain, claimed that in Russia, Belarus and Chechnya “one cannot differentiate between the activities of the Government and OC (organised crime) groups”.

Mr Putin told CNN there may be “political purposes” behind the leaks but added that they were “no catastrophe”. But he did appear riled at US diplomats referring to him as Batman to President Dmitry Medvedev’s Robin. “To be honest with you, we didn’t suspect that this would be done with such arrogance, with such a push and, you know, being so unethically done,” Mr Putin said.

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