// ]]>August 21, 2010 10:29 a.m. EDT
- NEW: WikiLeaks site will continue work depite allegation against its founder
- Assange denies allegations on the WikiLeaks Twitter page
- Arrest warrant against Julian Assange filed Friday night
- Police have not made contact yet with the elusive Assange
Stockholm, Sweden (CNN) — The founder and editor of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is wanted in Sweden after accusations of rape and molestation, a spokeswoman for the Swedish prosecutor’s office told CNN Saturday.
Spokeswoman Karin Rosander said Assange was arrested in absentia Friday night, and faces charges in relation to two separate instances, but she didn’t have more detail about when the alleged crimes occurred or who the alleged victims are.
Assange denied the allegations in a posting Saturday on the WikiLeaks Twitter page, saying, “The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing.”
A rape charge carries a possible prison sentence, while a molestation charge would not, Rosander said. In Sweden, a crime of molestation is not limited to child victims.
–Julian Assange, WikiLeaks on Twitter
Video: Wikileaks founder accused of rape//
Assange was in Sweden last weekend, but Rosander said it’s not clear whether he is still in the country. She said police have been unable so far to make contact with Assange.
“The next step is to get in contact with him and interview him,” Rosander said. He won’t be formally charged until he appears before court.
An elusive figure, Assange reportedly lives part-time in Sweden. He told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet this week that he chose Sweden to host several servers for WikiLeaks because of the country’s privacy laws.
He also told the paper, in an interview published Monday, that he had been in Sweden because he wanted a safe place to go after the high-profile leak of U.S. documents related to the war in Afghanistan.
A statement was posted by the “WikiLeaks team” on the website Saturday, saying, “We are deeply concerned about the seriousness of these allegations. We the people behind WikiLeaks think highly of Julian and and he has our full support.”
WikiLeaks will continue its work as “Julian is focusing on his defenses and clearing his name,” the statement said.
WikiLeaks has sparked major controversy by posting some 76,000 pages of those documents online last month, in what was called the biggest leak since the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized the leak, saying it would have a significant negative impact on troops and allies, revealing techniques and procedures.
Assange has defended the leak by saying it can help shape the public’s understanding of the war. He said the material was of no operational significance and that WikiLeaks tried to ensure the material did not put innocent people at risk.
Assange reportedly has spent his life developing the tech skills needed to set up WikiLeaks. When he was a teenager in Melbourne, Australia, he belonged to a hacker collective called the International Subversives, according to the magazine Mother Jones.
He eventually pleaded guilty to multiple counts of breaking into Australian government and commercial websites to test their security gaps, but was released on bond for “good behavior,” the magazine said.
As WikiLeaks has grown and published increasingly high-profile items, Assange has found himself the target of what he says are many legal attacks — though not necessarily of the type he now faces in Sweden.
“In my role as Wikileaks editor, I’ve been involved in fighting off many legal attacks,” Assange said in an e-mail to the BBC earlier this year. “To do that, and keep our sources safe, we have had to spread assets, encrypt everything, and move telecommunications and people around the world to activate protective laws in different national jurisdictions.
“We’ve become good at it, and never lost a case, or a source, but we can’t expect everyone to go through the extraordinary efforts that we do.”
In a news conference following the release of the Afghan documents, Assange said the site has 800 part-time volunteers and a loose network of 70,000 “supporters.”
CNN’s Bharati Naik in London, England, and Per Nyberg in Stockholm, Sweden, contributed to this report.