Swedish authorities on Saturday issued and then hastily withdrew an arrest warrant for Julian Assange, the founder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, on suspicion of rape.
The country’s chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, said there was not enough evidence to support the allegation, and that all charges involving rape have been lifted. But a police investigation into a lesser charge of molestation against Assange continues.
In a statement on WikiLeaks’ Twitter page, Assange called the charges baseless and their timing “deeply disturbing.”
Last month, WikiLeaks released more than 70,000 classified U.S. government documents on the war in Afghanistan, and it says it plans to publish several thousand more documents within weeks.
The U.S. Defense Department has described the release of the documents as a major security breach, one that threatens the lives of both American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Afghan civilians. It is reported to be considering criminal charges against WikiLeaks.
Assange, who is Australian, was in Sweden to discuss his intent to release more documents, and to seek protection from Swedish laws regarding whistle-blowers. Sweden has some of the world’s strictest laws on protection of sources.
Assange has no permanent address and travels from one country to the next, staying with supporters. At a news conference in Stockholm last week, he refused to reveal more about his background or his activities.