STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s prosecution authority said on Monday it has given British police all the information they requested on an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, after a series of apparent legal hitches.
Sweden wants Assange, 39, for questioning about allegations of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion.
Assange, whose WikiLeaks website is at the centre of a row over the release of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, has denied the allegations.
British media have reported that Assange, an Australian citizen, is in Britain and his lawyer has said UK authorities have been kept informed of his whereabouts.
The Swedish legal case has rumbled on since September.
“Director of Prosecution Ms. Marianne Ny has supplied the British police with the requested additional information,” the Swedish prosecution authority said in a statement. “The matter is being dealt with by competent judicial authorities, as defined in the European Arrest Warrant Act.”
British police have received the warrant, a source said.
An official source familiar with legal discussions between authorities in Britain and Sweden said British authorities have sent back a draft warrant to the Swedes at least twice due to concerns about technical legal defects in the document.
The source said British authorities wanted to be sure, before instructing police to arrest Assange, that technicalities had been resolved in a manner that was legally watertight.
Assange’s legal team has said it would mount a challenge in the British courts to any Swedish attempt to have him arrested and sent to Sweden.
The official said once London received a copy of the warrant deemed legally satisfactory, a police move to arrest Assange was likely to occur quickly.
The Swedish prosecution authority at first opened, then dropped and then re-opened the investigation of allegations by two Swedish women. Assange’s Swedish lawyer has said his client believed foreign powers were influencing Sweden.
The release of the cables has aroused official anger, particularly from Washington. The latest release listed details of sites around the world which the United States considers vital to its interests, including drug companies and energy installations.
Swiss postfinance, the banking arm of state-owned Swiss Post, has closed an account used for WikiLeaks donations because Assange has no residency in Switzerland, a spokesman for the bank said. The online payment service PayPal has also suspended WikiLeaks’ account.
Australia said on Saturday it was investigating whether Assange had broken any of its laws. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday the Obama administration was considering using laws in addition to the U.S. Espionage Act to possibly prosecute the release of government information by WikiLeaks.
Assange has said he and colleagues are taking steps to protect themselves after death threats.
Reporting by Patrick Lannin; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Janet Lawrence