WikiLeaks attacks likely by 'state actor': Assange lawyer

3rd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Friday that a "state actor" is likely to blame for massive cyber attacks on the whistleblower website after it released secret US diplomatic cables.

Mark Stephens said the "sophisticated" efforts to take down the site may be part of a general effort to silence the elusive Assange, after Sweden said it was issuing a fresh arrest warrant for him on sexual assault charges.

"Somebody, probably a state actor, has taken control of literally hundreds of thousands of vulnerable computers across the world and got them all to dial in to the WikiLeaks website simultaneously," Stephens told AFP.

"It's very sophisticated and we know that Julian has suffered a number of such attacks, we know there have also been some odd other things going on in Sweden," added Stephens, who is based in London.

Asked which country he believed was responsible, he replied: "I am not prepared to go into further details that we have."

The whistleblower site was back online with a new Swiss address on Friday, six hours after its previous domain name was shut down by a US system provider following a series of attacks over the past week.

WikiLeaks has reported a string of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks since dumping the US documents on Friday, a release that has led US senators to vow to punish Assange and his organisation.

"We have a situation where there are a number of coordinated actions," Stephens said.

"And as a lawyer who has experience of acting against governments -- and also for governments -- I have an open and inquiring mind as to why this is all occurring in the week that the cables were released," he added.

He also expressed fears about Sweden's ties to Washington as US officials seek ways to prosecute Assange, noting reports that CIA planes possibly carrying terror suspects had stopped in the country in the past.

"I also note with some concern that Sweden is the country through which the US passed many of its extraordinary rendition flights and that, as an international lawyer, causes me concern," Stephens said.

Assange has not been seen in public since WikiLeaks began to publish the 250,000 cables but the 39-year-old Australian is reportedly in hiding in southeast England.

Stephens would not reveal his client's location but denied he was in hiding, saying British police and Swedish authorities know where Assange is and how to contact him.

Sweden's Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear Assange's appeal against an initial warrant over allegations of rape and molestation.

Police there said they would issue a new warrant as a result of a procedural error in the initial order after police in Britain signalled the mistake. Interpol has also issued a "red notice" asking for information on Assange.

"As I sit here right here, right now, nobody from any official government organisation here, in the United States or in Sweden or any other country has got in touch with Julian despite knowing how to," he said.

Scotland Yard refused on Friday to comment on the warrant for Assange, saying it does not discuss extradition cases until the person involved has been arrested and appeared in court.

© 2010 AFP

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