Report: rape investigation of WikiLeaks founder

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STOCKHOLM (AP) - A Swedish tabloid reported Saturday that an arrest warrant has been issued for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on suspicion of rape, and officials said they could confirm “media reports.”

Assange addressed the report on WikiLeaks Twitter page, saying “the charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing.”

The prosecutor’s office in Stockholm issued a brief statement saying it “confirms media reports that a foreign citizen has been arrested in absentia” but didn’t name Assange.

“The arrest refers to two separate events, one complaint of molestation and one complaint of rape,” the statement said.

“The person is arrested in absentia, as there is a risk that he could obstruct the investigation,” it said.

Expressen said prosecutor Maria Haljebo Kjellstrand confirmed that Assange, who is an Australian citizen, was the person sought on the warrant. Haljebo Kjellstrand could not be reached for comment Saturday. The prosecutor’s office said all information related to the case would be posted on its website.

“We were warned to expect ‘dirty tricks.’ Now we have the first one,” WikiLeaks said on its Twitter page.

“Expressen is a tabloid; No one here has been contacted by Swedish police. Needless to say this will prove hugely distracting,” it said in another tweet.

WikiLeaks has angered the Obama administration by publishing thousands of leaked documents about U.S. military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange said Wednesday that WikiLeaks plans to release a new batch of 15,000 documents from the Afghan war within weeks.

Assange was Sweden last week partly to apply for a publishing certificate to make sure the website, which has servers in Sweden, can take full advantage of Swedish laws protecting whistle-blowers.

He also spoke at a seminar hosted by the Christian faction of the opposition Social Democratic party and announced he would write bimonthly columns for a left-wing Swedish newspaper.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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