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Wikileaks founder blasts reopening of rape probe

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has blasted Sweden's investigation into allegations against him for sexual misconduct after prosecutors reopened a probe into charges he raped a woman last month.

"It appears to be highly irregular and some kind of legal circus," Assange told the TV service of newspaper Expressen on Thursday. “Today I also had a case filed against me in the United States on a wholly unrelated manner,” he added without elaborating.

The charges come as Assange is applying for a permit to live and work in Sweden, a legal haven for journalists and whistleblowers, Assange said. The investigations may “prevent that application going ahead,” he said, adding “we will find a replacement if it comes to that."

Claims that Assange had non-consensual sex with two women in Sweden first surfaced last month, following demands by the Pentagon that Wikileaks return some 92,000 mostly classified military documents concerning the US war in Afghanistan. The whistle-blowing website has already published about 77,000 records, an action that prompted strong condemnation from US military officials. Some human rights organizations have also claimed the move put Afghan civilians at risk.

Assange has said the remaining 15,000 documents will be posted in the coming weeks, once names and other sensitive details are redacted. Pentagon officials have warned they may spill even “more explosive” secrets than the first batch.

Assange on Thursday suggested the controversy generated by Wikileaks may be stoking the investigations.

“As I have said before, there was clearly a smear campaign, and who was behind this, we do not know,” he said. “Now, whether that turns out to be a smear campaign done by a couple of people for personal motives or ideological motives, or that is larger and involves geopolitical concerns, or whether it is a mixture of all those, we do not know.”

A senior Swedish prosecutor on Wednesday said the rape case was being reopened, a little more than a week after a it was first opened and then abruptly closed.

“There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed,” she said. A separate investigation into an allegation Assange molested another woman is being extended to include possible “sexual coercion and sexual molestation.”

More coverage from Reuters, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal is here, here and here. ®

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