Assange blasts WikiLeaks attackers ahead of court appearance
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange blasted Visa, MasterCard and PayPal on Tuesday for blocking donations to his website, in a defiant statement from behind bars ahead of a fresh court appearance in London.
The 39-year-old Australian claimed the firms were "instruments of US foreign policy" but vowed their actions would not stop the whistle-blowing website from continuing to publish thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables.
"My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have expressed," he said in a statement to Australian television dictated to his mother Christine Assange.
"These circumstances shall not shake them. If anything, this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct."
Christine Assange has travelled to London to be with her son, who has been in prison since being denied bail following his arrest on December 7 on an extradition request from Sweden.
While she was not able to see her son face-to-face, he spoke to her on the telephone for 10 minutes, telling her that he was being kept in a basement cell in solitary confinement.
Swedish prosecutors want to question him about allegations of sexual assault made by two women, which he denies and which his lawyers have condemned as politically motivated. Officials in Stockholm reject the claims.
Assange's legal team -- which includes high-profile human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson -- will make a second attempt to win his release in a hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court from 1400 GMT on Tuesday.
Another of his lawyers, Mark Stephens, said he was hopeful of getting bail, telling Sky News that Assange had offered to be electronically tagged to ensure he did not flee the country.
"He is perhaps the most identifiable person around at the moment... it would be difficult for him to go anywhere without being recognised," he added.
Asked about Assange's remarks from jail, Stephens said he was "not quite sure how this statement came into existence" given that his client had been in a segregated unit at Wandsworth prison since last week.
"He's on a 23-and-a-half-hour lockdown, he's in isolation, he doesn't have access to newspapers or television or other news devices, he's not getting mail, he's subject to the pettiest forms of censorship," he said.
In the statement to Australia's Channel 7, Assange singled out three global giants which have stopped money sent to his website, credit card companies Visa and MasterCard and the Internet payment firm PayPal.
These firms in turn have been attacked by computer hackers.
"We now know that Visa, MasterCard and PayPal are instruments of US foreign policy. It's not something we knew before," Assange said.
"I am calling on the world to protect my work and my people from these illegal and immoral acts."
PayPal has insisted its decision to restrict the WikiLeaks account was not the result of any US pressure.
US President Barack Obama has led worldwide condemnation of the leaks, dubbing them "deplorable", and Washington is pursuing a criminal investigation into how WikiLeaks obtained the information.
According to an interview Stephens gave to Al Jazeera on Monday, a secret US grand jury has been set up in Virginia to work on charges that could be filed against Assange over the leak.
There has been a groundswell of support for Assange since his arrest, and protests are planned outside the court Tuesday.
The Stop The War Coalition, which is organising the demonstration, claims the US government and its allies have built up a campaign against Assange which culminated in his detention "on dubious charges".
More than 600,000 people have also signed a petition in support of WikiLeaks on campaigning website Avaaz.
Meanwhile in Australia, newspaper and television chiefs issued an open letter condemning their government's "deeply troubling" response to the WikiLeaks release, after Prime Minister Julia Gillard dubbed it "illegal".
© 2010 AFP