Interpol adds Assange to 'most wanted' list

Interpol, the world's largest international police organisation, has added WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to its wanted list.

Assange was added to the list after a request by Sweden, where Assange is wanted on charges of rape and sexual molestation. The move comes days after WikiLeaks began publication of more than 250,000 secret diplomatic cables between the US State Department and embassies abroad.

The Australian hacker-turned-activist is the subject of an Interpol Red Notice, which authorises local police in member states to arrest and hold him for extradition.

The charges in Sweden arise from complaints made by two Swedish women with whom Assange admits having sex during a visit to the country, where some of WikiLeaks' servers are based, in August.

Assange has since had a request for residency in the country denied.

Assange denies any wrongdoing, and has claimed that the allegations against him are politically motivated, part of a smear campaign orchestrated by US security services.

Mark Stephens, Assange's London-based lawyer, today repeated Assange's claim that he had consensual sex with the women, saying in a statement that his client was only wanted as a witness in Sweden.

"The U.K. police know how to contact him," Stephens said. "He is not and has never been on the run."

The whereabouts of Assange, who in 1996 was fined $2,100 AUD after pleading guilty to 16 hacking offences, are not currently known. Earlier this week, he was offered residency by the South American country of Ecuador.

His mother, Christine Assange, today expressed her distress at hearing her son was on the Interpol list, telling Australia's ABC radio: "I don't want him hunted down and jailed."