WikiLeaks founder warned of a smear campaign: report

By Mia Shanley

STOCKHOLM (BestGrowthStock) – The founder of WikiLeaks, accused of molestation in Sweden, said Australian intelligence had warned him of plans to discredit the whistle-blower website as it prepares to release more secret U.S. files on the war in Afghanistan.

Swedish authorities issued an arrest warrant for Australian Julian Assange on suspicion of rape but dropped the charge abruptly on Saturday. Police are still investigating an accusation of molestation in a separate case.

“We were warned on the 11th by Australian intelligence that we would expect this sort of thing. They had some concerns that we would have something like that,” Assange told Al Jazeera television in an interview.

“Now, we have no direct evidence at this stage that this is an intelligence operation, or has been influenced by an intelligence operation, but certainly the surrounding context is disturbing.”

WikiLeaks last month published more than 70,000 secret military files on Afghanistan in what U.S. officials have called one of the biggest security breaches in U.S. military history.

The Pentagon was not immediately available for comment.

Assange told Al Jazeera the accusations against him were not credible and he expected all charges in Sweden to be dropped on Monday. His lawyers were trying to arrange a meeting with the Swedish prosecutor’s office, he said.

“They found the other claim not to be credible, and they are investigating this one. I assume they will also find it to not be credible,” he said.

LEGAL PROTECTI0N

Assange has been spending an increasing amount of time in Sweden, which has some of the world’s toughest laws protecting journalists’ sources. WikiLeaks keeps many of its web servers there.

He was in Sweden last weekend to defend his intent to publish more files, including some 15,000 detailing the war in Afghanistan. Local media say he is still in the country, staying with a friend.

Assange said the allegations would not stop WikiLeaks’ work.

“Within the next two to four weeks,” he said, when asked about the release of other Pentagon files held back last month. “There’s very significant material in there.”

Assange recently signed a contract with the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, which could help give him protection as a journalist under Swedish law.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority said on its website on Sunday that the investigation into the allegation of molestation would continue this week but provided no further details.

It said Chief Prosecutor Eva Finne dropped the rape charge because “the basis for the decision which Eva Finne took on Saturday was more comprehensive than what the duty prosecutor had access to on Friday night.”

WikiLeaks promotes the leaking of information to fight government and corporate corruption. Earlier this year, it leaked a classified video showing a 2007 helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists.

(Reporting by Mia Shanley; Editing by Ralph Boulton;

WikiLeaks founder warned of a smear campaign: report