LONDON // WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested by British police for questioning in a sex-crimes investigation of the man who has angered Washington by spilling thousands of government secrets on the Internet.
Mr Assange was arrested at 9.30am and was due to appear at Westminster Magistrate's Court later in the day. Mr Assange, 39, was detained after attending a London police station by appointment.
"Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service's Extradition Unit have this morning, Tuesday 7 December, arrested Julian Assange on behalf of the Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape," the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
The 39-year-old Australian is wanted on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in Sweden, and the case could lead to his extradition. Interpol placed Mr Assange on its most-wanted list on November 30 after Sweden issued an arrest warrant. Last week, Sweden's highest court upheld the detention order.
Mr Assange has denied the accusations, which his lawyer Mark Stephens has said stem from a "dispute over consensual but unprotected sex." Mr Stephens has said the Swedish investigation has turned into a "political stunt."
The pressure on WikiLeaks mounted from other quarters yesterday: Swiss authorities closed Mr Assange's bank account, depriving him of a key fundraising tool. And WikiLeaks struggled to stay online despite more hacker attacks and resistance from world governments, receiving help from computer-savvy advocates who have set up hundreds of "mirrors" - or carbon-copy websites - around the world.
In one of its most sensitive disclosures yet, WikiLeaks released on Sunday a secret 2009 diplomatic cable listing sites around the world that the US considers critical to its security. The locations include undersea communications lines, mines, food suppliers, manufacturers of weapons components, and vaccine factories.
Pentagon spokesman Col David Lapan called WikiLeaks' disclosure "dangerous" and said it gives valuable information to the nation's enemies.
WikiLeaks has been under intense international scrutiny over its disclosure of a mountain of classified US cables that have embarrassed Washington and other governments. US officials have been putting pressure on WikiLeaks and those who help it, and is investigating whether Mr Assange can be prosecuted under espionage law.
In what Mr Assange described as a last-ditch deterrent, WikiLeaks has warned that it has distributed a heavily encrypted version of some of its most important documents and that the information could be instantly made public if the staff were arrested.
For days, WikiLeaks has been forced by governments, hackers and companies to move from one website to another. WikiLeaks is now relying on a Swedish host. But WikiLeaks' Swedish servers were crippled after coming under suspected attack again Monday, the latest in a series of such assaults.