Published December 21, 2010
LONDON – It has come to this: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is complaining that someone leaked a Swedish police report on his alleged sexual offenses.
In an interview with the British newspaper The Times, Assange complained about reporting in the rival newspaper The Guardian, which is one of several publications that has been helping WikiLeaks edit its trove of secret U.S. diplomatic files in exchange for an early look at them.
The Guardian published details Saturday of the Swedish police report in which two women accuse Assange of rape, based on what it described as "unauthorized access" to prosecutors' files. Assange claimed the newspaper was "selectively publishing" parts of it, and questioned the timing of the leak, saying it was given to the paper a day before his bail hearing last week.
"The leak of the police report to The Guardian was clearly designed to undermine my bail application. It was timed to come up on the desk of the judge that morning," Assange was quoted as saying in Tuesday's paper. "Someone in authority clearly intended to keep Julian in prison, and shopped (the report) around to other newspapers as well."
Assange, who is contesting a Swedish extradition bid, was freed on bail last week under strict conditions including that he stay at the home of a supporter in southern England, wear an electronic tag, observe a curfew and post a bond of 200,000 pounds ($310,000). He faces his next court hearing Jan. 11.
Swedish officials want to question Assange about allegations stemming from separate encounters with two women in Sweden over the summer. The women have accused Assange of sexual crimes including rape, molestation and unlawful coercion. Assange denies the allegations, which his lawyers say stem from a dispute over "consensual but unprotected sex." He has not been charged.
The Times quoted Assange as saying there is "very suggestive evidence" that the two women were motivated by revenge, money and police pressure.
In an editorial, The Guardian defended its coverage, saying it "is unusual for a sex-offense case to be presented outside of the judicial process in such a manner, but then it is unheard of for a defendant, his legal team and supporters to so vehemently and publicly attack women at the heart of a rape case."
In a BBC interview aired Tuesday, Assange said he believed the women behind the allegations "found out that they were mutual lovers of mine and they had unprotected sex and they got into a tizzy about whether there was a possibility of sexually transmitted diseases."
The women's lawyer, Claes Borgstrom, has said they went through similar experiences with Assange and decided to go to the police together to seek advice on what to do. A policewoman who heard their accounts decided that Assange had probably committed a sex crime of some kind and passed the case to a prosecutor.
Borgstrom has criticized Assange for suggesting that the allegations are part of a smear campaign against him and WikiLeaks, which has begun to release what it says are more than a quarter-million leaked U.S. embassy cables, infuriating the United States and governments around the world. Borgstrom says the case has nothing to do with Assange's website or any wider conspiracy against it.
Asked by the Times whether he is promiscuous, Assange replied: "I am not promiscuous. I just really like women."
He said WikiLeaks had received "tremendous" public support, even when he was in jail.
"I was handed a card by one of my black prison guards. It said, 'I only have two heroes in the world: Dr. (Martin Luther) King, and you,'" he told the newspaper. "That is representative of 50 percent of people."
Assange didn't immediately return calls Tuesday seeking comment.