STOCKHOLM – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is suspected of rape in Sweden, where authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest, officials said Saturday.
The 39-year-old Australian denied the allegations on WikiLeaks' Twitter page, saying they "are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing."
Assange, who has sought Swedish legal protection for the whistle-blower website, is suspected of molestation and rape in two separate cases, said Karin Rosander, a spokeswoman for the Swedish Prosecution Authority.
"He should get in contact with police so that he can be confronted with the suspicions," Rosander told The Associated Press.
She said a prosecutor in Stockholm issued the arrest warrant on Friday. The move means police are ordered to seek his arrest as part of an investigation but doesn't necessarily mean that criminal charges will be filed.
"The next step is that we interrogate him," Rosander said. "Then we'll see what happens."
WikiLeaks has angered the Obama administration by publishing thousands of leaked documents about U.S. military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange said Wednesday that WikiLeaks plans to release a new batch of 15,000 documents from the Afghan war within weeks.
He was in Sweden last week partly to apply for a publishing certificate to make sure the website, which has servers in Sweden, can take full advantage of Swedish laws protecting whistle-blowers.
He also spoke at a seminar hosted by the Christian faction of the opposition Social Democratic party and announced he would write bimonthly columns for a left-wing Swedish newspaper.
WikiLeaks commented on the rape allegations on its Twitter page. Apart from the comment from Assange, the page had a link to an article in Swedish tabloid Expressen, which first reported the allegations.
"We were warned to expect 'dirty tricks.' Now we have the first one," one Tweet said.
"Expressen is a tabloid; No one here has been contacted by Swedish police. Needless to say this will prove hugely distracting," said another.