Interpol Puts Julian Assange on Most Wanted List for Sex Crimes Charges

What does Interpol's 'Red Notice' mean for the WikiLeaks founder?

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Interpol has placed Julian Assange on its most wanted list, adding one more entity to the growing list of those hunting the WikiLeaks founder. The "red notice" comes as Sweden, Australia, and the U.S. are all investigating Assange, whose site recently released 250,000 classified State Department cables. The silver-haired Australian is reportedly hiding somewhere near London, though the U.K. is not looking for him, the Guardian's David Leigh, Luke Harding, Afua Hirsch and Ewen MacAskill report.

The U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, announced yesterday that the Justice Department and Pentagon are conducting "an active, ongoing criminal investigation" into the latest Assange-facilitated leak under Washington's Espionage Act. However, "the inquiry by US federal authorities is made tricky by Assange's citizenship – he is Australian – and the antediluvian nature of the law's pre-internet-era 1917 statutes," the newspaper reports. "But Assange's most pressing headache is Sweden. Swedish prosecutors have issued an international and European arrest warrant (EAW) for him in connection with rape allegations, and the warrant has been upheld by a Swedish appeal court." Assange says the sexual encounters in question were consensual and the charges are part of a smear campaign.

But despite his intensifying legal troubles, "Assange was in a buoyant mood," the Guardian writes, though he's keeping out of the limelight for now. Ecuador has offered him asylum.

  • What Does a Red Notice Mean? Wired's Kevin Poulsen explains that a "Red Notice is a kind of international wanted poster seeking the provisional arrest of a fugitive, with an eye towards extradition to the nation that issued the underlying arrest warrant. ... A Swedish judge on November 18 ordered Assange 'detained in absentia' to answer questions in a rape, coercion and molestation investigation in Stockholm. A court approved an international arrest warrant for the ex-hacker two days later, at which point Sweden reportedly applied to Interpol for the Red Notice... The investigation stems from separate encounters Assange had with two women during his August visit to Sweden... According to local news reports, the women told investigators the sexual encounters began as consensual, but turned nonconsensual. One woman said Assange ignored her appeals to stop when the condom broke."
  • Interpol Can't Issue an Arrest Warrant, David Kopel explains at The Volokh Conspiracy. "Countries make their own decisions about how to treat a Red Notice. Some countries treat a Red Notice as an actionable request for an arrest; the United States does not. Interpol, which is based in Lyon, France, has no law enforcement powers, and thus cannot issue warrants. Rather, Interpol’s purpose is to share information among different national police agencies, subject to whatever restrictions the originating agency wishes to impose. (For example, the United States does not allow Iran, Cuba, Sudan, or Syria to access fingerprints which it has provided to Interpol.)"
  • Curious Charges, James Joyner writes at Outside the Beltway. "The Feds famously got notorious mobster Al Capone on tax evasion charges.  Will WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange be done in by sex crimes?" Joyner wonders. He adds, "It is worth noting, however, that Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Assange back in August and then promptly withdrew the charges the same day. As I wrote at the time, 'while I view Assange as substantially lower than pond scum, this story is incredibly murky. While I’m happy to see him discredited and silenced, bogus rape charges are beyond the pale.'  Neither opinion has changed."
  • This Isn't a Political Hit Job, It's Women Scorned, Business Insider's Henry Blodget insists. "It was initially assumed... [the charges were] an attempt to silence him for publishing stuff that powerful people don't want to see published." But it's something else entirely. "The two women who filed the original charges had sex with Assange on successive nights. Both seemed pissed that he charmed them into bed and then never called them again. Both were mortified to learn, after the fact, that he had had sex with them on back-to-back evenings. One was annoyed that, after seducing her in a movie theater, he spent the 45 minutes in the cab riding from a movie to her apartment "tweeting and texting and reading stories about himself."  Both said he preferred not to wear a condom. One said he seemed to have an aversion to the word 'no.'" Blodget says these are unhappy Assange groupies, and notes that the rape charges have been dropped; only the molestation charge remains.
  • Mike Huckabee Calls for WikiLeakers' Execution, Gabriel Beltrone reports at Politico. Apparently a mere arrest is not enough for the former Arkansas governor. "Whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty," Huckabee said while signing copies of his children's book, Can’t Wait Till Christmas! "Anyone who had access to that level of information was not only a person who understood what their rules were, but they also signed under oath a commitment that they would not violate. They did. … Any lives they endangered, they’re personally responsible for and the blood is on their hands."
  • Robert Gates Says Everyone Should Take a Second to Breathe, Spencer Ackerman reports at Wired. "If Defense Secretary Robert Gates had anything to say about WikiLeaks’ unauthorized disclosure of U.S. diplomatic dispatches, it was this: everybody calm down. WikiLeaks’ release of the often-undiplomatic diplomatic cables isn’t a 'meltdown' or a 'game-changer' for American foreign policy, an exasperated Gates intoned at a Pentagon press conference this afternoon. 'Is this embarrassing?  Yes.  Is it awkward?  Yes,' he continued.  'Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.'"
  • Fun Game! Max Read writes at Gawker. "This is just like Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego!"
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