Swiss bank freezes WikiLeaks founder’s legal defense fund

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, December 6, 2010 12:18 EDT
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Below: UK authorities prepare to arrest Assange

Over €31,000 set aside for the legal defense of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been frozen by the Swiss bank PostFinance, which said that Assange had given false information in creating the account.

Assange, the 39-year-old Austrailian who’s been the talk of the world’s media since his website began releasing thousands of secret US diplomatic cables, does not have a permanent legal residence, so he allegedly gave the bank the address of his Geneva-based attorney.

“Assange cannot provide proof of residence in Switzerland and thus does not meet the criteria for a customer relationship with PostFinance,” the bank said. “For this reason, PostFinance is entitled to close his account.”

The bank reviewed Assange’s account because he is a “high profile” individual, WikiLeaks said.

Last week, Internet payment leader PayPal also froze a WikiLeaks-linked account containing over $60,000, the site added.

Similarly, when it discovered that its servers were hosting WikiLeaks files, online retailer Amazon.com terminated its relationship with the site.

Critics liken the actions to corporate censorship of important free speech. The same entities have not taken similar actions against media outlets that have covered the disclosures.

WikiLeaks has in recent days been under a deluge of cyber-attacks that led to its DNS registration for its .org URL being taken down, but by mid-Monday the site had reappeared on over 500 different domains.

UK officials prepare to arrest Assange

Julian Assange was being perused by international police organization Interpol on a warrant from Swedish authorities, who sought to question the former hacker on an allegation of sexual assault. He has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Assange was staying with a group of WikiLeaks supporters outside London last week, according to published reports.

British authorities had delayed the arrest for days citing a lack of necessary paperwork from their Swedish counterparts. After Interpol issued a digital “wanted” poster for Assange on Monday morning, an unnamed Scotland Yard source reportedly told Press Association it had been given the documents needed for the arrest. Police would not comment on the report publicly.

James D. Catlin, a lawyer in Melbourne, Australia, wrote recently that Sweden’s justice system is destined to become “the laughingstock of the world” for investigating “rape” charges after two women complained that Assange had had sex with them without using a condom.

Both of the accusers “boast[ed] of their respective conquests” after the alleged crimes had been committed, he wrote. “The Swedes are making it up as they go along.”

Catlin confirmed to Raw Story that Assange retained his services for a “limited duration” in October, but declined to provide further details.

Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny has maintained that the investigation is proceeding as normal and denied that it is in any way politically motivated. Assange suggested that it could be part of a smear campaign by the US Defense Department.

His principle accuser, Anna Ardin, was recently revealed to have ties with an anti-Castro group that receives money from the US Central Intelligence Agency.

No actual charges have been filed against Assange, who has threatened to release a cache of devastating information if he is harmed.

Updated from a prior version.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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