Swedish authorities said Saturday an arrest warrant accusing WikiLeaks
founder Julian Assange of rape was based on an unfounded claim and has been withdrawn, less than a day after it was issued.
"I don't think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape," chief prosecutor Eva Finne said, according to the Associated Press
. For the time being, prosecutors said he remains a suspect in a second, less serious molestation allegation. WikiLeaks had earlier denounced the charges as a "dirty trick."
Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, was already the subject of a worldwide controversy after his website posted some 76,000 classified documents related to the war in Afghanistan and vowed to put up more. U.S. officials say the postings could imperil American troops and Afghans who have aided them.
Assange, in an earlier statement on WikiLeaks Twitter
page, said the rape allegations "are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing." A WikiLeaks spokesman, who calls himself Daniel Schmitt, told the Associated Press
the charges were "extremely serious" and came as a complete surprise to the organization. "We were warned to expect 'dirty tricks.' Now we have the first one," WikiLeaks said in another Twitter posting.
Expressen, a Swedish tabloid, broke the story. Assange was in Sweden last week, the AP said, in part to apply for a publishing certificate so WikiLeaks can take advantage of Swedish laws protecting whistleblowers.
WikiLeaks said it disclosed what it called the "Afghan War Diary" last month and made the documents available to some news organizations in the name of openness, so people could gain a wider understanding of the war in Afghanistan.