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Australia blames U.S. over WikiLeaks, founder held in UK

08 Dec

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd

 

December 08, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – Australia blamed the United States Wednesday for the release by WikiLeaks of U.S. diplomatic cables after a British court ordered the detention of the group’s founder over allegations of sex crimes in Sweden.

WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, handed himself in to British police Tuesday after Sweden had issued a European Arrest Warrant for him. Assange, who denies the allegations, will remain behind bars until a hearing on December 14.

He has spent some time in Sweden and was accused this year of sexual misconduct by two female Swedish WikiLeaks volunteers. A Swedish prosecutor wants to question him about the accusation.

WikiLeaks, which has provoked fury in Washington with its publications, vowed it would continue making public details of the 250,000 secret U.S. documents it had obtained.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the people who originally leaked the documents, not Assange, were legally liable and the leaks raised questions over the “adequacy” of U.S. security.

“Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorized release of 250,000 documents from the U.S. diplomatic communications network,” Rudd told Reuters in an interview.

“The Americans are responsible for that,” said Rudd, who had been described in one leaked U.S. cable as a “control freak.”

The original source of the leak is not known, though a U.S. army private who worked as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, Bradley Manning, has been charged by military authorities with unauthorized downloading of more than 150,000 State Department cables.

U.S. officials have declined to say whether those cables are the same ones now being released by WikiLeaks.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates welcomed news of Assange’s arrest.

“I hadn’t heard that but it sounds like good news to me,” Gates told reporters Tuesday during a trip to Afghanistan.

Assange defended his Internet publishing site in a newspaper commentary Wednesday, saying it was crucial to spreading democracy and likening himself to global media baron Rupert Murdoch in the quest to publish the truth.

At the Tuesday court hearing in London, Senior District Judge Howard Riddle said: “There are substantial grounds to believe he could abscond if granted bail.”

He said the allegations were serious, and that Assange had comparatively weak community ties in Britain.

His British lawyer, Mark Stephens, told reporters a renewed bail application would be made, and that his client was “fine.”

Stephens said many people believed the prosecution was politically motivated, and that he would be “released and vindicated.”

But a Swedish prosecutor was cited in newspaper Aftonbladet as saying the case was a personal matter and was not connected with his WikiLeaks work.

Assange, dressed in a navy suit and wearing an open-neck white shirt, initially gave his address in court as a P.O. Box in Australia. Pressed for a more precise address, he gave a street in Victoria, Australia.

Australian journalist John Pilger, British film director Ken Loach and Jemima Khan, former wife of Pakistani cricketer and politician Imran Khan, all offered to put up sureties to persuade the court Assange would not abscond.

The U.S. government and others across the world have argued the publication of the cables is irresponsible and could put their national security at risk.  (*)

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2010 in World News

 

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