STOCKHOLM: A Swedish court has ordered the detention of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on suspicion of rape.
Assange was sought on allegations of "probable cause suspected of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion," said prosecutor Marianne Ny, who had requested his detention. To "execute the court’s decision, the next step is to issue an international arrest warrant," she said in a statement. This would be done soon through Interpol, she said.
Ny, the head of Swedish department that oversees prosecution of sex crimes, told AFP: "I requested his arrest so we could carry out an interrogation with Assange."
A warrant was first issued for Assange's arrest on August 20 by another prosecutor on suspicion he had raped one woman and sexually molested another, but the warrant was withdrawn just hours later.
Ny reopened the rape investigation on September 1 but did not request his detention, making it possible for him to leave Sweden.
"We have exhausted all the normal procedures for getting an interrogation (and) this investigation has gotten to a point where it is not possible to go further without interrogating Assange himself," Ny said. She said she did not know where the former hacker was and had no idea how to get in touch with him.
Stephens, his lawyer, said Assange was in London earlier Thursday but refused to disclose his current whereabouts.
He said Thursday's hearing was the first time Assange's lawyers had heard the full details of the charges since the allegations were made public in August.
Assange's lawyer in Sweden, Bjoern Hurtig, said the prosecutor's petition was "exaggerated" and "out of proportion". He stressed that his client "is absolutely prepared to come to Sweden (and) wants to cooperate," and had even proposed some dates that would work for him.
Ny said however she was not aware of any offers from Assange to come to Sweden for interrogation. "I would like to stress that the district court shared our opinion that there is flight risk in this case," she said.
Two days before the allegations against Assange were made public in August, he had applied for a work and residency permit in Sweden, where some of Wikileaks' servers are located, but his application was turned down on October 18.
WikiLeaks last month published an unprecedented 400,000 classified US documents on the Iraq war and posted 77,000 secret US files on the Afghan conflict in July.