Skip to main content

WikiLeaks' Assange questioned by prosecutors

From Per Nyberg, CNN
Julian Assange was questioned Monday about a complaint of molestation, his lawyer said.
Julian Assange was questioned Monday about a complaint of molestation, his lawyer said.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: New evidence has emerged in the case, prosecutors say
  • Julian Assange says he is completely innocent, his lawyer tells CNN
  • Two women have leveled accusations against him
  • He became well-known after his website published secret papers about the Afghanistan war

(CNN) -- Swedish prosecutors questioned Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, for about an hour Monday, following complaints against him from two women, his lawyer said Tuesday.

"He maintains that he is completely innocent," lawyer Leif Silbersky told CNN.

Prosecutors may decide Wednesday about charges against him, prosecution official Karin Rosander, reversing an earlier statement by another official that a decision would come Tuesday.

New evidence has come to light, Rosander told CNN, which means the senior prosecutor needs more time to consider the case.

Rosander did not say what the new evidence was.

Assange was originally accused of rape by one woman and molestation by another, but Sweden's chief prosecutor ruled earlier this month that Assange would not be charged with rape.

The lawyer for both women appealed, asking for the rape charge to be reinstated and the molestation charge to be upgraded to include a sexual component. Prosecutors are expected to rule on both appeals Wednesday, Rosander said.

Assange came to worldwide attention this summer when his website leaked tens of thousands of documents related to the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

Video: WikiLeaks founder faces questions
RELATED TOPICS

He was questioned Monday only about the complaint of molestation, Silbersky said.

Before he was questioned, he told CNN he had no idea what the case was about.

"The present investigation of issue (there are no charges), is one alleged non-sexual 'harassment,'" Assange wrote Thursday in an e-mail to CNN.

"I have no idea what this is and no details have been provided to us."

Swedish authorities arrested Assange "in absentia" in mid-August on two charges -- rape and molestation, a nonsexual charge that is similar to harassment.

The chief prosecutor later revoked the arrest warrant and dropped the rape charge, though Assange still faces the molestation allegation.

Assange told CNN that although he no longer is accused of rape, the allegations have been damaging.

"As a result of the case mishandling and the smear, there are currently millions of web pages with my name and 'raped' or 'rape' and over six million with 'sexual,'" Assange wrote to CNN.

"The damage they have caused me and WikiLeaks is enormous," Assange told the Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet in an article published Thursday.

Assange told the Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera last week the accusations are "clearly a smear campaign."

The only question, he said, is who is behind it.

The attorney for the alleged victims has told CNN that rumors of possible Pentagon or CIA involvement in the sex crime accusations against Assange are "complete nonsense."

The allegations follow WikiLeaks' release last month of 76,000 pages of U.S. documents related to the war in Afghanistan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has criticized the leak, saying it would have a significant negative impact on troops and allies, revealing techniques and procedures.

Assange has defended the leak, saying it can help shape the public's understanding of the war. He said the material was of no operational significance and that WikiLeaks tried to ensure the material did not put innocent people at risk.

CNN's Atika Shubert in London, England, contributed to this report.