WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has accused right-wing US politicians of imposing a ‘death penalty’ on the whistleblowing website after supporters were banned from donating funds via credit card.
Speaking via Skype from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has being staying since June to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges, Assange said that a block imposed by six US payment firms has cost the site $50 million (Rs 275 crore).
Assange claimed that the companies, including Visa and Mastercard, started the financial blockade shortly after WikiLeaks published some 2,50,000 secret State Department cables in December 2010 and says documents show that they were imposed at the instigation of ‘right-wing extremists’ in the US Congress.
He said that the dramatic drop in revenue has seen WikiLeaks staff forced to take a 40 per cent pay cut.
The Australian’s claims came after the European Commission said that the block was unlikely to have violated EU anti-trust rules.
Asange said, “It is concerning that hard-right elements in the United States have been able to pressure Visa and Mastercard into introducing a blockade that the US Treasury has rightly rejected. It means we have to reduce our publications. We cannot expose war crimes and other forms of abuse. We have been living with this banking blockade for two years. The situation is financially difficult, but there is no danger that WikiLeaks will cease as an organisation.”
He said that exercising a ‘financial death penalty’ over organisations involved in political controversy set a bad precedent for media and other groups around the world adding, “There is no dispute that this blockade is a political reaction to our publications.”
Assange added that he was grateful to the Ecuadorean embassy for ‘protecting’ him and over the granting of political asylum.
Assange said, “My stay here in the Ecuador Embassy, while difficult in many ways, at least I am able to continue my work to some degree.”
Manning to tell court how he was forced to sleep naked in prison
Bradley Manning, the American soldier accused of leaking US military secrets to Wikileaks, is expected to tell the court in a pre-trial hearing how he was tortured during his nine months in custody at Quantico naval base. Manning was also expected to tell the court that he was made to sleep naked for several days and was kept in a tiny cell.