Whistleblower website WikiLeaks achieved its first major legal victory in a pushback against the U.S.-led financial blockade that's crippled the publication and sapped more than 95 percent of its resources since 2010.
In a ruling by the Reykjavík District Court in Iceland, credit card processing company Valitor, partner of both Visa and MasterCard, is required to un-block future payments to WikiLeaks within the next two weeks or face $6,000 in fines every additional day it delays.
The case was brought by WikiLeaks payment partner Datacell, which was cut off by Valitor after WikiLeaks began publishing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010. The court ultimately decided that Valitor had violated contract law by cutting off Datacell, which it justified by claiming that its clients are not allowed to accept payments on behalf of others.
"This is a significant victory against Washington's attempt to silence WikiLeaks," site founder Julian Assange said in prepared text. "We will not be silenced. Economic censorship is censorship. It is wrong. When it's done outside of the rule of law its doubly wrong. One by one those involved in the attempted censorship of WikiLeaks will find themselves on the wrong side of history."
"WikiLeaks is persuing several actions against the blockade and a European Commission preliminary investigation into the blockade was started last July," a WikiLeaks press release explained. "A Commission decision on whether to pursue the financial services companies involved in the blockade is expected before the end of August."
The victory, though momentous, is still a small one for WikiLeaks, which still faces an international blockade from within the U.S. Credit card giants Visa and MasterCard, along with online payments titan PayPal and banking giant Bank of America, still forbid their customers from sending money to the whistleblower website because they believe its actions to be illegal, even though charges have yet to be filed. Critics of the financial blockade say the companies still allow donations to hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and sellers of illicit drugs, despite those groups' clearly illegal activities.
The Icelandic court's decision will not likely affect those companies' internal policies regarding WikiLeaks, but it could prove pivotal in ongoing discussions over the site founder's request for political asylum in Ecuador. Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning on a charge of sexual assault, but he claims the allegations are merely part of an attempt to jail him in a country that's more friendly to U.S. extradition requests. Assange has said that he believes an American grand jury has issued a secret indictment for him that will only be unsealed once he's on U.S. soil.