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Legal net closes on WikiLeaks as founder arrested in London

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Dec 7, IRNA -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by London’s Metropolitan Police Tuesday, tightening the legal noose around the whistleblowing website after releasing extracts from over 250,000 secret US embassy cables.

The 39-year-old Australian journalist was detained under a European Arrest Warrant after his lawyers said he would meet police to reconcile allegations related to sexual assault claims in Sweden that date back to August.

On Monday, Swiss bank, PostFinance, announced it had frozen Assange’s accounts worth 31,000 euros on a technicality about his residence. Several internet companies including PayPal and Amazon have also ended WikiLeaks’ services.

According to reports, US attorney general, Eric Holder, has authorised 'a number of things to be done' to combat the embarrassing leaks of diplomatic cables that follow military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, has said that his client not been charged with anything but was making arrangements to meet British police by consent, in order to facilitate questioning.

'This appears to be a persecution and a prosecution. It is highly irregular and unusual for the Swedish authorities to issue [an Interpol] red notice in the teeth of the undisputed fact that Mr Assange has agreed to meet voluntarily to answer the prosecutor's questions,' Stephens said.

His arrest is expected to lead to a lengthy personal court battle to avoid extradition to Sweden. The first task will be to seek bail with a figure up to £200,000 surety being mentioned.

Assange, who has denied charges, has said that he declined to return to Sweden to face prosecutors because he feared he would not receive a fair trial, and prosecutors had requested that he be held in solitary confinement and incommunicado.

In recent days, he has told friends he is increasingly convinced the US is behind Swedish prosecutors' attempts to extradite him for questioning on the assault allegations.

Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 30113369

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