Police: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Arrested in London

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WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Julian Assange, the public face of WikiLeaks, was arrested Tuesday morning in London at the request of Swedish authorities, Scotland Yard said.  After voluntarily surrendering to police, the 39-year old Australian is expected to appear in a London court later Tuesday.

Sweden has asked that Assange be extradited so that it can investigate allegations by two women who had sexual encounters with him in the country earlier this year. Swedish prosecutors say the encounters may have involved “unlawful coercion” and even rape, but Assange has insisted that the liaisons were consensual.  Interpol placed Assange on its most-wanted list on Nov. 30 after Sweden issued an arrest warrant. Last week, Sweden’s highest court upheld the detention order.

(See the full story at TIME.com.)

Prior to his arrest Tuesday, Julian Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, was arranging to deliver the WikiLeaks founder to British police for questioning and  told reporters in London that the Metropolitan Police had called him to say they had received an arrest warrant from Sweden for Assange: “We are in the process of making arrangements to meet with police by consent.”

(See Top 10 Leaks.)

Assange had reportedly been hiding out at an undisclosed location in Britain, and his arrest comes only a week after WikiLeaks began publishing hundreds of U.S. diplomatic cables on the Internet, embarrassing governments across the globe. U.S. officials are investigating whether Assange can be prosecuted under espionage law and currently is the subject of a criminal investigation in the United States on the grounds of jeopardizing national security and diplomatic efforts around the world.

(See Why Assange Thinks Hillary Clinton Should Resign)

WikiLeaks is fighting to stay online after Amazon booted it from its servers and its Swedish servers were under attack leaving it no choice but to set up shop in Switzerland.  On Monday, a Swiss bank froze an account Assange had opened to raise funds. But WikiLeaks’ huge online following has pitched in, setting up more than 500 mirrors. In what Assange described as a last-ditch deterrent, WikiLeaks has warned that it has distributed a heavily encrypted version of some of its most important documents and that the information could be instantly made public if the staff were arrested.

(See video of TIME’s exclusive interview with Assange.)