Lawyer: Assange is being persecuted in Sweden 

Julian Assange's lawyer charged Wednesday that the Wikileaks founder is being persecuted by Swedish authorities who have accused him of rape and other sex crimes in a case that prompted Interpol to place him on its most-wanted list.

Swedish officials have turned down repeated offers to speak to Assange even as they seek his arrest, attorney Mark Stephens said. Assange's exact whereabouts are unknown, although he has conducted online interviews with some media organizations.

Assange is wanted on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. No formal charges have been filed but Swedish prosecutors say they want him to be detained because he has not made himself available for questioning.

Stephens complained that Assange has yet to receive formal notice of the allegations he faces — which he called a legal requirement under European law. Stephens was scathing in his condemnation of Sweden's Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny, saying he'd never come across a prosecutor who has "such casual disregard" for her obligations.

"Given that Sweden is a civilized country I am reluctantly forced to conclude that this is a persecution and not a prosecution," Stephens wrote in an e-mail.

Interpol added the 39-year-old Australian to its most-wanted list on Tuesday.

Sweden's Supreme Court was reviewing Assange's appeal of the order to detain him. Court official Kerstin Norman, who is handling the case, said a decision is expected late Wednesday or Thursday.

Ny was did not immediately return calls seeking comment. She told Swedish news agency TT last month that the lawyers have been provided with the amount of information and time that is typical for these type of cases.

The only thing I can say is that we have proceeded with this investigation in the normal way," she said.

Assange's secret-spilling group has leaked a series of confidential U.S. intelligence and diplomatic reports this year. Stephens, who also represents The Associated Press, said his London law firm was investigating whether the Swedish case was linked to U.S. promises to prosecute those behind the leaks.

___

Malin Rising in Stockholm contributed to this report.

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Raphael G. Satter

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