Swedish Sex Probes of WikiLeaks Founder May Be Closed This Week

Prosecutors in Sweden could decide as early as Tuesday whether to continue or permanently close two sex-crimes investigations of Julian Assange, founder and frontman for the whistle-blowing Web site WikiLeaks. Karin Rosander, chief spokeswoman for the Swedish Prosecution Authority (whose latest written statement on the sensational case can be read in English here), told Declassified on Monday that one of her department's chief prosecutors, Eva Finné, is still considering what to do about the probes of Assange, which were opened on Friday.

In the most sensational and widely reported case, Rosander said, a duty prosecutor, responsible for assessing cases reported by the police outside normal business hours, issued a warrant late on Friday authorizing the arrest of Assange for questioning about an allegation of rape. On Saturday, however, the police file in the case was sent to Finné, a chief prosecutor in Stockholm. Finné then determined that there was insufficient evidence of rape for the warrant to remain in force, Rosander said, so she canceled it.

Finné herself subsequently confirmed, in a telephone interview with Declassified, that the rape investigation was indeed still open, although she did not offer any guidance about when or how the case would be resolved. Rosander said that technically the rape investigation remains open, although indications are that Finné may soon decide to close the case permanently.

Separately, Rosander and Finné both confirmed to Declassified that the prosecutor's office opened and is still pursuing an investigation into a case of sex-related "molestation" involving Assange. Rosander she had no further details regarding the alleged substance behind either investigation, but said she believed the facts in the molestation case are separate from the rape investigation. Finné confirmed that the allegations in the two cases were made by two different women, but also said that at some point it is likely she will consolidate the cases into a single investigation.

Rosander said the latest indication she has is that the prosecutor is likely to decide by the end of this week, and perhaps as early as Tuesday, whether there is sufficient evidence to continue or even intensify the investigation. But Finné would not offer a timeline for how she expects the investigation to proceed. She said she spent no time on the Assange matter Monday because she was in court on a different case, but that she expected to be able to return to it Tuesday.

In a flurry of Twitter messages and interviews with a handful of media over the weekend, Assange charged that the accusations against him were unfounded and the product of some kind of "dirty-tricks campaign." In one tweet he said: "The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing." In another tweet, WikiLeaks itself said: "We were warned to expect 'dirty tricks'. Now we have the first one."

There was a little more nuance in some of Assange's statements to Aftonbladet, a Swedish newspaper (whose latest story on the case can be read in Swedish here). According to an account of his interview with the paper offered by London's Independent, Assange continued to intimate that powerful forces were conspiring against him: "I know by experience that WikiLeaks' enemies will continue to bandy around things even after they have been renounced. I don't know who's behind this but we have been warned that, for example, the Pentagon plans to use dirty tricks to spoil things for us." But he was also quoted as saying, somewhat cryptically, that he had "never, whether in Sweden or in any other country, had sex with anyone in a way that is not founded on mutual consent."

According to stories in The Independent and London's Guardian, Swedish press reports allege that two women whom Assange met on a trip to Sweden are at the center of the investigations. The Guardian is one of three media organizations to which WikiLeaks gave advance access to a cache of U.S. Defense Department reports on the Afghan war whose publication (and partial posting on WikiLeaks' Web site) led to an international uproar and a war of words between WikiLeaks and the U.S. government.

According to The Guardian's account, one of the two women told Aftonbladet she had never wished for Assange to be charged with rape. "It is quite wrong that we were afraid of him. He is not violent and I do not feel threatened by him," the woman reportedly said, adding: "The responsibility for what happened to me and the other girl lies with a man who had attitude problems with women." In her interview with Aftonbladet, according to The Guardian, the woman scoffed at the notion, advanced by Assange and many supporters, that the sex-abuse inquiries were the product of American dirty tricks: "The charges against Assange are of course not orchestrated by the Pentagon."

The Guardian story also included a line indicating that "sources close to the woman said that issues arose during the relationships about Assange's willingness to use condoms." Another source, who has been working closely with WikiLeaks in recent weeks and did not want to be named discussing a sensitive topic, says the women expressed concerns about Assange's willingness to use condoms, and also about his reluctance to agree to the request of at least one of the women to undergo testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

Assange did not reply to a detailed e-mail inquiry about these matters sent to him by Declassified on Sunday night.