The U.S. government, apparently aided by freelance computer hackers, chased WikiLeaks from an American commercial computer network and temporarily stopped the leak of embarrassing diplomatic documents. But within hours, the website was back online, publishing from a fortified bunker in Sweden.
The virtual chase Wednesday was mirrored by a real-life pursuit as European authorities hunted for the site’s fugitive founder, Julian Assange, who is wanted in Sweden on rape charges.
Sweden’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the court order to detain Assange for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual molestation. The 39-year-old Australian, who denies the accusations made by two Swedish women following his visit to the country in August, had appealed two lower court rulings allowing investigators to bring him into custody and issue an international arrest warrant. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal of the detention order.
On Wedesday, Interpol said it has been circulating a “red notice” seeking Assange’s arrest by member nations.
The international search for Assange, however, may be more a matter of bureaucratic and legal delay than actual man-hunt, according to a report Thursday in the British newspaper, The Independent.
The paper says that the WikiLeaks chief is believed to be in southeast England, and although British police won’t say exactly where, they know his location but have thus far been unable to act on the Interpol arrest warrant pending authorization from their own bosses.
“The 39-year-old Australian supplied the Metropolitan Police with contact details upon arriving in the UK in October,” reports The Independent. “Police sources confirmed that they have a telephone number for Mr. Assange and are fully aware of where he is staying.”