How WikiLeaks rose to prominence

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spent his first full day on bail in Britain on Friday pending extradition to Sweden on sex assault allegations.

Here is a timeline of how his whistle-blowing website has risen to prominence since its launch four years ago:

- December 2006: is set up by a group of people including Assange, an Australian former computer hacker. Its aim is to let whistle-blowers post sensitive documents on the Internet without being traced.

- February 2008:

WikiLeaks faces its first serious legal challenge over its publication of internal documents showing Swiss bank Julius Baer helped clients launder funds via the Cayman Islands.

After an appeal by the bank, a US judge orders the website shut down -- but backtracks when lawyers argue the move infringes freedom of speech.

- November 2009:

Wikileaks publishes a huge archive of text pager messages recorded in the US on September 11, 2001, the day hijackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

The messages provide "a completely objective record of a defining moment of our time," the site claims.

- April 2010:

WikiLeaks releases a video of a US military Apache helicopter strike in Baghdad in 2007 which killed two Reuters employees and a number of other people. A 22-year-old American soldier, Bradley Manning, is arrested and charged with leaking the document.

- July 25:

The site publishes nearly 77,000 classified US military documents on the war in Afghanistan. The documents reveal details of civilian victims and supposed links between Pakistan and the Taliban.

- August 21:

The Swedish judicial authorities issue an arrest warrant for Assange on charges of rape. They later rescind the measure, but renew it the following month.

- October 23:

WikiLeaks publishes some 400,000 reports of incidents written from 2004 to 2009 by American soldiers, revealing torture by Iraqi forces and evidence US forces turned a blind eye to it.

- November 18:

A Swedish prosecutor issues an international arrest warrant for Assange.

- November 28:

WikiLeaks starts releasing more than 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables. US officials condemn the decision.

- December 2:

US company Amazon expels Wikileaks from its servers, claiming the site has infringed its terms of service.

- December 5:

Wikileaks servers are hit by hacker attacks which take the site offline for over a day.

In the days that follow, international payment services including PayPal, Visa and MasterCard act to prevent the site from financing its operations; these actions bring cyber attacks against the companies' websites.

- December 7:

Assange hands himself in to police in London and is placed in custody pending a ruling on the Swedish extradition request.

- December 16:

Assange is released on bail and tells journalists the Swedish rape allegations are part of a smear campaign against him. He vows WikiLeaks will continue to release cables.

- December 17:

Assange says it is "increasingly likely" the US will try to extradite him on charges related to WikiLeaks.

© 2010 AFP

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