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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Assange Not Afraid Of Convictions; Remains Committed To Exposing More Truth

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WikiLeaks' Assange: Convictions "Unfaltering"

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke from his prison cell in London to defend himself and attack the financial companies that suspended payments to his controversial website, Australian television reported Tuesday.

Assange told his mother that he remained committed to publishing some 250,000 pages of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, despite condemnation from Washington and elsewhere.

Australia's Network Seven asked Christine Assange to ask her son one question during a visit to his London jail: Was it worth it?

"My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have expressed. This circumstance shall not shake them," said Assange, according to his mother who supplied the network with a written statement of her son's answer.

"If anything this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct."

Assange was scheduled to appear in a London court Tuesday seeking to fight his extradition to Sweden in a sex-crimes investigation and trying to secure bail after being held a week in a British prison cell.

The 39-year-old Australian was ordered held in prison custody by a judge at a hearing Dec. 7 after surrendering himself to Scotland Yard to answer a Swedish arrest warrant.

Assange is wanted for questioning after two women accused him of sexual misconduct in separate encounters in Sweden over the summer. Lawyers for Assange say he denies the allegations and will contest the attempt to extradite him for questioning.

The disclosures, which have continued unaffected since Assange was detained in prison, have offended some U.S. allies and angered its rivals. Officials in Washington claim some other countries have already curtailed their dealings with the U.S. government as a result.

'Illegal and immoral attacks'

In his statement from jail, Assange was also critical of the major finance companies who suspended payments to his WikiLeaks site, saying "We now know that Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and others are instruments of U.S. foreign policy. It's not something we knew before."

"I am calling for the world to protect my work and my people from these illegal and immoral attacks," he said.

At his Tuesday hearing, Assange will be represented in court by Geoffrey Robertson, a former appeals judge at the U.N. Special Court for Sierra Leone who has specialized in freedom of speech cases. Robertson's former clients include author Salman Rushdie.

Supporters were planning to protest Assange's detention outside the court, following a small rally on Monday outside Sweden's embassy in London.

Some of Assange's supporters suspect the extradition request has been motivated by WikiLeaks' decision last month to begin publishing its trove of the secret U.S. diplomatic cables, something Swedish officials have denied.

The U.S. Justice Department has been looking into a range of criminal charges, including violations of the 1917 Espionage Act, that could be filed in the WikiLeaks case.

Assange and his lawyers have voiced fears that U.S. prosecutors may be preparing to indict him for espionage after WikiLeaks' publication of the cables.

Swedish charges

At an hour-long court hearing last week, lawyer Gemma Lindfield — acting for Swedish police — said Assange is accused of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion.

She told the court one woman had accused Assange of pinning her down and refusing to use a condom during an encounter on Aug. 14 in Stockholm. That woman also accused of Assange of molesting her in a way "designed to violate her sexual integrity" several days later.

A second woman has accused Assange of having sex with her without a condom while he was a guest at her Stockholm home and she was asleep.

In Sweden, a person who has sex with an unconscious, drunk or sleeping person can be convicted of rape and sentenced to up to six years in prison.

Assange's Swedish lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, claims the courts are stacked against defendants in sex cases in Sweden.

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However, a 2009 European Commission-funded study found only 10 percent of sex offenses reported in Sweden result in a conviction.

Lawyers for Assange said they will make a new application Tuesday to have him freed on bail, and will offer to post a hefty bond with the court.

Extradition proceedings

At last week's court hearing in London, Senior District Judge Howard Riddle said there were "substantial grounds" to believe Assange could abscond if granted bail.

Australian journalist John Pilger, British film director Ken Loach and Jemima Khan, former wife of Pakistani cricketer and politician Imran Khan, all offered to put up sureties to persuade the court Assange would not flee.

A decision on whether to extradite Assange is expected to take several weeks. Both Assange and the Swedish government are entitled to appeal against the ruling if the judge rules against them.

Britain's government said Monday that the country's national security adviser believes government websites could be attacked in retribution if Assange is not released.

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Government departments have been told they could be targeted by online "hacktivists," following attacks on companies including MasterCard Inc., Visa Inc. and PayPal Inc., which cut ties to the WikiLeaks site.

Internet activists launched "Operation Payback" to avenge WikiLeaks against those perceived to have obstructed its operations. They temporarily brought down the websites of credit card firms Visa and MasterCard, as well as that of the Swedish government, last week.

Christine Assange told her son there was worldwide support for him.

"I told him how people from all over the world, all sorts of countries were standing up with placards and screaming out for his freedom and justice and he was very heartened by that," she said. "As a mother I am asking the world to stand up for my brave son."

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Sources:, MSNBC, Youtube, Google Maps

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