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Swedish police question WikiLeaks founder

/ Source: news services

The lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Tuesday that Swedish police have questioned his client regarding allegations of molestation.

Leif Silbersky said police in Stockholm questioned Assange for about an hour late Monday and that he was formally informed of the suspicions against him.

Silbersky said Tuesday his client denies the allegations and is hopeful the prosecutor will drop the case.

Police started investigating Assange earlier this month after two Swedish women accused him of rape and molestation, but the prosecutor later closed the rape investigation.

Investigators have not released details about either case, though a police report obtained by The Associated Press shows both women had befriended Assange in connection with a seminar he gave in Stockholm on Aug. 14.

The report shows they filed their complaints together six days later.

An on-call prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Assange on suspicion of rape later that day, but Chief Prosecutor Eva Finne revoked it within 24 hours saying it wasn't a rape case.

Molestation is not a sex crime under Swedish law, but covers offenses such as reckless conduct or inappropriate physical contact. It can result in fines or up to one year in prison.

WikiLeaks vs. Washington Assange has taken refuge in Sweden partly to seek legal protection for WikiLeaks, an online whistle-blower that has angered the Obama administration by publishing thousands of leaked documents about U.S. military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The group says it has computer servers in Sweden and other countries.

The WikiLeaks website released a secret CIA memo last Wednesday warning of fallout if the United States came to be seen as an "exporter of terrorism," given al-Qaida's interest in American recruits.

The document by the CIA's so-called "Red Cell" was the latest classified memo to be published by the whistle-blowing website, which last month released more than 70,000 secret U.S. military documents on the war in Afghanistan.

The CIA downplayed the paper's significance, noting Red Cell teams of analysts were tasked with taking up hypothetical scenarios and presenting alternate views, divergent from mainstream thinking.

WikiLeaks has threatened to release some 15,000 more, despite Pentagon criticism that the leaks endangered the lives of sources and exposed sensitive intelligence gathering methods to enemy fighters.

Assange and his group suggested that the molestation accusations against him, which came as WikiLeaks prepared to release its latest batch of classified documents, were part of a smear campaign.

In an interview with a Swedish newspaper earlier this month, Assange even pointed a finger at the Pentagon, which has warned WikiLeaks that the leaked documents could endanger U.S. soldiers and their Afghan helpers.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell last week called Assange's charges "absurd."