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WikiLeaks founder blasts 'false' rape accusations

world Updated: Oct 26, 2010 09:54 IST

AFP
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denounced on Monday lingering sex crime accusations against him as "false," saying they distracted from serious Iraq war abuses revealed by his group.

The Australian founder of the whistleblowing website, who lives the life of a fugitive on the run fearing charges for his massive leaks of US military war logs, is still under investigation from Sweden for the alleged rape and molestation of two Swedish women.

But prosecutors have not yet formally charged him more than two months since the initial allegations emerged.

The enigmatic Australian, who in the past has charged the allegations against him were part of a Washington-orchestrated "smear campaign" aimed at discrediting WikiLeaks, has repeatedly rebuked reporters' attempts to draw him on the matter.

Shortly after publishing an unprecedented 400,000 classified US documents he said showed upwards of 109,000 deaths in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, he called himself the "lightning rod" for criticism of WikiLeaks in a CNN interview before walking off the set when pressed on the Swedish accusations.

Calling his latest document dump "the most extraordinary history of a war to have ever been released in our civilization," Assange dismissed the questions on his personal life as "tabloid journalism."

"It should be obvious that these things are not in balance and not proportionate," he added during a separate, live interview with CNN veteran journalist Larry King.

"It is not right to bring in sensational and, in fact, false claims relatively trivial matter, compared to the deaths of 109,000 people... CNN should be ashamed of doing that. And you, Larry, you actually should be ashamed, as well."

Regardless of who is behind the allegations, he acknowledged to AFP in September that the criminal case against him has caused "enormous disruption" to his organization, which released some 77,000 US military documents on the Afghan war, drawing the ire of the Pentagon.

The group, allegedly also gripped by internal turmoil over Assange's leadership style and decisions, is preparing to publish another 15,000 documents -- believed to be more controversial than the first batch -- on the Afghan conflict.

But Assange told CNN last week that a small handful of disgruntled employees who have since been suspended were to blame for the reports of internal strife.

Earlier this month, the Swedish Migration Board denied Assange a residency permit. Though he is currently residing in London, his British visa is said to expire early next year, further complicating his efforts to elude his foes.