London: Almost half of Britons believe that
the sex charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are
an "excuse" to keep him in custody so that the US can
prosecute him for leaking secret diplomatic cables, a new poll
Assange, 39, the Australian founder of WikiLeaks, is
fighting extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for
questioning about allegations of sexual assault.
The CNN poll of British opinion, released yesterday,
ahead of Assange`s bail hearing here, finds that 44 percent
of respondents in Great Britain believe that Sweden`s sex
charges are just a pretext, while only 13 percent flatly
disagree. The remaining 43 percent say they don`t know.
Forty-one per cent of British people responding to the
poll said that Assange should not be prosecuted for leaking
the secret US cables while 30 per cent said he should be
punished. The remaining 29 per cent not having made up their
mind, the poll said.
More people agree than disagree that Wikileaks was right
to release the cables, by 42 percent to 33 percent. The
remainder, 25 percent, don`t have a position.
Despite the prevailing opinion that the sex charges are a
ploy, almost half of Britons, or 44 percent, say their
government should send Assange to Sweden anyway for
questioning. Twenty-nine percent disagree, and the rest say
they don`t know.
Age was a significant division in the results of the poll
for which 2,010 British adults were interviewed, CNN said.
Older people were significantly more likely to feel that
Assange should be sent to Sweden for questioning and that he
should be prosecuted for leaking the secret diplomatic cables.
For example, 42 percent of persons 65 and older say
Assange should be prosecuted for releasing the secret
diplomatic cables, a view held by only 21 percent of those
between 25 and 34.
Assange, who voluntarily turned himself in to London
authorities last week after a Swedish arrest warrant was
issued, has denied any wrongdoing. His supporters have called
the charges an attempt to strike back at Assange and his
WikiLeaks group, which so far has released more than 1,300 of
what it says will be more than 250,000 US diplomatic documents
dating back 1966.
US President Barack Obama has slammed WikiLeaks for
releasing the classified US government documents and has
termed the act of whistle-blower website as "deplorable".