The Reykjavík District Court has ruled that Valitor, formerly known as VISA Iceland, violated contract laws by blocking credit card donations to Wikileaks, according to a press release posted on the whistleblowers’ Twitter account.
The court also ordered that the donation gateway should be reopened within 14 days otherwise Valitor will be forced to pay a fine of $6,200 daily. Valitor CEO Vidar Thorkellsson told Bloomberg, however, that the company would appeal the ruling. He declined to comment further.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said…
This is a significant victory against Washington’s attempt to silence WikiLeaks. We will not be silenced. Economic censorship is censorship. It is wrong. When it’s done outside of the rule of law its doubly wrong. One by one those involved in the attempted censorship of WikiLeaks will find themselves on the wrong side of history.
The blockade stripped away over 95% of donations from supporters of WikiLeaks, costing the organization in excess of $20 million.
In June, Datacell, the Iceland-based company that processed donations for WikiLeaks, filed a case against Valitor, the company behind VISA and MasterCard, for “unlawfully suspending financial services”.
Wikileaks faced a number of financial obstacles in 2010. When Master Card and other companies began to block payments to the site, Datacell allowed VISA card-holders to donate to Wikileaks via the company.
However, Visa banned its card-holders from donating to Wikileaks. Datacell’s director Olafur Sigurvinsson told reporters he was amazed at the double standards.
I can support Al-Qaeda, the Ku Klux Klan, buy weapons and drugs and all kinds of porn with my Visa card. There is nobody investigating this, but I cannot support a human rights organisation which is fighting for freedom of expression!
Donating money is a basic right in every free society
agrees human rights activist Peter Tatchell.
Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have not been charged with any offense, so to preemptively cut off the finances of a company that has not been found guilty of any crime, I think, is a very, very bad omen.
Once we give those companies the right to veto whose donations to which companies they would accept, we are on a slippery road not only to censorship, but indeed to an unfree society.
Assange makes his escape into a diplomatic storm
|Six months ago. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, on bail awaiting a decision about extradition to Sweden, quietly moved his official bail residence from Suffolk to Kent. The ostensible reason was that his Suffolk host — Vaughan Smith, founder of Frontline Media and the Frontline Club and his wife — were expecting a baby imminently, and Mrs Smith was finding the perpetual presence of a dozen or so WikiLeakers stressful.Myself, I thought one thing: channel run. Two hours after a judgment came down from the UK Supreme Court authorising Assange’s extradition to Sweden, he would be on a yacht, one of those super-yachts that the cypherpunks of the ’90s bought after they all got rich. It was easy to game it out. The super-yacht only has to get beyond the 12-mile UK waters line before it is in international waters. Assange would then be in a legal limbo.I never wrote the suggestion up in an article, because I thought it was something Team Assange might be planning, and something the dim-bulb UK legal-police establishment would genuinely not have thought of. Instead, Assange has done something more creative — turned up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London and asked for asylum. The move has thrown the carefully choreographed rendition of Julian Assange into chaos, and created an international impasse in London, and in the EU as a whole.
To recap the state of play: 10 days ago, the UK Supreme Court denied Assange’s appeal against a European arrest warrant to Sweden, to submit to further questioning on s-xual assault allegations made by two women he had met in August 2010. Assange’s barrister, thinking on her feet, noted the judgment relied in part on the Vienna Convention, which had not formed part of the case leading up to the Supreme Court review. The SC gave her leave to request an appeal on their own judgment.
Last week they dismissed that request rather curtly and set the clock ticking for Assange’s extradition. The only option remained an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, to overrule the UK Supreme Court. But the ECHR will only rarely grant injunctive relief and stop national legal proceedings — most likely it would take two years to consider the case by which time Assange would be in an orange jumpsuit in a Maryland supermax prison.
Had Assange consented to the extradition he would have entered the Swedish legal system, which has two main features:
Assange’s latest move has attracted a share of criticism, with both supporters and those neutral towards him questioning his conduct in this matter. About eight people have put up £240,000 bail for Assange, and while many of those — such as leftist filmmaker Ken Loach — would accept that Assange has to take drastic message, others will be less understanding. Jemima Khan has already tweeted that the move took her by surprise, and that she always thought Assange would face the accusations.
Given that Assange has made amply clear his opinion concerning the legitimacy of interlocking national security states, it is hard to regard such surprise as genuine. But it may be. Others have been more sanguine, with Vaughan Smith saying Assange really had no choice but to make the jump if he truly felt the US was out to get him, via Sweden.
There will also be a section of global pro-WikiLeaks opinion that will be dismayed — though why they thought Assange was resisting extradition for 500-plus days is something they would have to explain. The difficulties of the case have been apparent from the start — a hero of the Left (though he does not claim to be of the Left), accused of s-xual assault/r-pe, by one of the world’s most socially progressive countries, and by two women deeply sympathetic to the WikiLeaks cause.
That has been the sentiment behind many of the calls from the liberal-left, that Assange should simply go to Sweden and face the accusations against him. That presumes a neutrality and genuine eye for truth on the part of the Swedish state, an unwise assumption for two reason: first, the possibility that there may be an actual high-level US-Sweden conspiracy going on, and secondly, that the Swedish state legal process may have become so dominated by bureaucratic interests and statist feminism that it would be unable to deal with him fairly.
Let’s take the second of these first, and remark on a few salient points:
1) Sweden’s legal process for s-x crimes is archaic, and has not been overhauled properly. The slightest accusation — in this case of non-violent s-xual line-crossing — not only earns the accused months in remand, but eventually results in a trial in a closed court, before judges appointed by the ruling political parties.
2) The process by which Assange was accused, cleared, and then re-accused of these incidents beggars belief. Two women went to a Stockholm police station one Friday afternoon in August 2010, to either (and here accounts vary) report Assange for s-xual misconduct, or inquire as to how he could be forced to take an STI test. Only one woman, Sofia Wilen, gave a statement, saying that the morning after a s-xual encounter with Assange, he had initiated s-x while she was asleep, and without a condom; by her own testimony, she said that she then gave consent to continue the act.
3) While her statement was being given, police had already contacted a prosecutor to issue an investigation warrant for arrest. When Wilen was informed of this, she refused to sign her own evidence statement, saying that she had been pushed into making a complaint by people around her. The next day, the senior prosecutor for Stockholm rescinded the warrant, saying that there was nothing in the statement suggesting a crime had occurred.
4) By Monday, that decision had been appealed, with the two women now represented by Claes Borgstrom, a big wig in the Social Democratic party, and drafter of the 2005 s-x crimes laws under which Assange was being accused — laws that many had said were unworkable. The second complainant in the affair, Anna Ardin, now changed her story. She had been interviewed the day after Wilen had told of a rough but consensual s-xual encounter with Assange, but suggested he had torn a condom off during s-x.
5) In the weeks between the Stockholm prosecutor rejecting Wilen’s statement as evidence of a potential crime, and the appeal, Ardin’s story changed, and her account of rough consensual foreplay became an accusation that Assange had pinned her down with his body during s-x to prevent her applying a condom. This became the basis for a new accusation — s-xual coercion — which would have been sufficient as a felony, should the appeal prosecutor not reinstate Wilen’s r-pe accusation. In that week, tweets were deleted and blog posts changed to remove any suggestion that Ardin had thought Assange’s behaviour to her consensual.
6) The prosecutor to whom the appeal was made — Marianne Ny — was a former head of the “Crime Development Unit”, whose specific brief was to develop new applications of s-x crimes laws, in areas where they had not previously been applied. She had previously spoken of remand as a form of de facto justice for men accused of s-x crimes, whom the courts would otherwise let free.
7) The European arrest warrant, and the Interpol red notice under which Assange is being extradited, was issued with a speed and seriousness usually reserved for major violent criminals, rather than someone simply wanted for further questioning, without a charge being present.
That is surely enough to get the antennae going, but there’s more:1) Assange’s visit to Sweden during which these incidents occurred had raised alarm in both the centre-right Swedish establishment and the US. Had he been granted the residency he applied for that month, Assange could have become a registered Swedish journalist and based WikiLeaks there, gaining the substantial protections the Swedish state extends to journalists. It has been suggested the US had told Sweden it would curtail intelligence sharing if that occurred. After the accusations were made, Assange was denied residency.
2) Sweden’s defence and intelligence needs are overwhelmingly oriented to its relations to Russia. Sweden runs a huge northern fleet, and maintains a national service-based conscript army, all based on the premise that a military emergency between Russia and Europe would see the former try to enter through the top. Sweden’s right, concentrated in the ruling Moderate party, have for years been trying to abolish Swedish neutrality, and have it join NATO. In fact, Sweden and NATO have been working together closely for years. Sweden becoming a centre for WikiLeaks would have been a disaster for that process.
3) Claes Borgstrom, the politician-lawyer who suddenly popped up to assist the two women accusers, is the law partner of Thomas Bodstrom, the former justice minister in the Social Democratic government that lost power in 2006. In 2001 Bodstrom had been an enthusiastic advocate of secret renditions at US request, with several Swedish citizens of Egyptian origin (Egyptian political refugees granted asylum and citizenship by Sweden, by another part of the state process) rendered back to Egypt and tortured. The entire interconnected Swedish establishment was oriented to a “war on terror” superstate strategy, and an Assange trial on criminal matters would fit that perfectly.
4) In 2011, a grand jury was secretly empanelled in Maryland in the US to bring down indictments in the matter of “cablegate”, the vast release of files that — it is usually assumed — were leaked to WikiLeaks by Bradley Manning, a junior information officer who had become connected to the world of hacking through a personal relationship with a Boston-based hacker. Manning is now on trial on a brace of charges that will most likely see him in prison for the rest of his life; the intent of the prosecutors convening the grand jury appears to be to dynamically link Assange with Manning’s leaking of the files, so that Assange can be indicted and extradited for espionage.
Those two interconnecting processes suggest that Assange is within reason to do whatever he can to stay out of the clutches of both states. He is banking on the fact that Ecuador — one of a brace of South American states that turned leftwards in the past decade — would be willing to assist the WikiLeaks leader, given the “cablegate” releases showed the way in which a hidebound US diplomatic elite saw the Latin-American left turn as nothing other than another challenge to US interests by “crypto-communists”.
In 2010, an Ecuadoran deputy justice minister said that Assange would be welcome in Ecuador, a promise walked back to some degree by President Rafael Correa. However, Correa has recently appeared on Assange’s World Tomorrow chat show, and he might be willing to take the heat.
For the moment, the Ecuadorian government is playing a straight bat, issuing this statement:
So, on we go. The extradition clock continues to tick, the Swedes will fume, and should asylum be granted, a full-blown diplomatic crisis will occur. Where will be in a year? Quite possibly in Quito. Not exactly the Bond-style escape to a yacht in Vaughan Smith’s helicopter, but quite a move all the same.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has requested political asylum and is under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Assange wrote directly to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, saying he was being persecuted and could not return to his homeland, where he would be vulnerable to extradition to “a foreign country that applies the death penalty for the crime of espionage and sedition.”
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, a big fan of WikiLeaks, is now reportedly studying Julian Assange’s request. Last month Correa told Assange in an interview that it is time to get rid of false stereotypes depicting wicked governments persecuting saint-like journalists and news outlets and welcomed him to the “club of the persecuted.
Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino confirmed Assange has taken refuge in the South American nation’s embassy in London and is seeking political asylum.
“Ecuador is studying and analyzing the request,” Patino told reporters in Quito.
In a brief statement, Assange said he was “grateful to the Ecuadorian ambassador and the government of Ecuador” for considering his application.
The UK Foreign Office said it was working with the Ecuadorian authorities to resolve the situation as soon as possible.
“As Mr. Assange is in the Ecuadorian embassy, he is on diplomatic territory and beyond the reach of the British police,” the Foreign Office said as cited by Sky News.
The country’s embassy in London has also confirmed the information and released a statement on its website.
“While the department assesses Mr Assange’s application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian Government.
The decision to consider Mr Assange’s application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the Government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden”, the statement says.
The South American nation has already once offered Assange residency. In November 2010, Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas said his country is “open to giving him [Assange] residency in Ecuador”. Lucas also said Ecuador was “very concerned” by information revealed by Wikileaks linking US diplomats with spying on friendly governments.
Julian Assange, the founder of whistleblower website WikiLeaks, has been under house arrest in the UK since 2010, after Sweden issued an international arrest warrant over allegations of sexual assault.
Swedish authorities want to question Assange over allegations of “unlawful coercion and sexual misconduct.” He is not charged with any crime, though two women have come forward claiming to have been “sexually molested” by Assange. He claims that both encounters were consensual, and maintains that the case is politically motivated.
Ecuadorian asylum: The logical choice?
Ecuador would be a good choice of hideout for Julian Assange, because the likelihood of an extradition from that country is much lower than it would be from Sweden or the UK, believes WikiLeaks supporter Clark Stoeckley.
“This is a very good option, so that Julian can continue to do the right work he has been doing for journalism,” Stoeckley told RT. “We are not so worried about him going to Sweden actually, that’s just small business. What we are most worried about is him getting extradited in the United States. It is being orchestrated by the Department of Justice and most of the mainstream media does not seem to know about it because no one is allowed in.”
However, investigative journalist Paul Lashmar believes that in the end Assange might not make it to the safety of Ecuador.
“They’ve got an extradition agreement with the US anyway, so I’m not quite sure what he wants to do,” Lashmar said. “I think this is one of the last options he has probably got.”
Lashmar believes that the moment Assange leaves the embassy for the Heathrow Airport, he will be sent to Sweden. “It just looks like the desperate move of a desperate man.”
Because Ecuador intends to comply with the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights while considering Assange’s asylum request, seeking a safe haven there country seems like a logical choice, says David Swanson, a Campaigner with RootsAction.org.
“It the one nation in the Western hemisphere that has kicked out a US military base and said you can put a military base back in Ecuador when Ecuador’s military can put a base in Miami, Florida,” Swanson said. “A nation that would take that kind of a stand is the only nation that might be able to stand up to the pressure that it is no doubt under right now from the United States.”
Ecuador is quite a suitable country, and for Assange to seek political asylum there would certainly be safer than in any other country that supports American foreign policy, journalist Afshin Rattansi told RT. But “even if Ecuador did accept the asylum request, it would still be a complicated matter, as to how Julian Assange would leave London,” he added.
In the end, the Ecuadorian government would have to decide whether or not it is worth it to provide asylum to Assange, Internet freedom activist Barrett Brow told RT.
“I think the reason that Assange is justified in seeking this kind of asylum has a greater deal to do with international backdoor efforts that have occurred – the ones we know about at least – to ensure that he somehow is dealt with,” Brow explained. “And those sorts of forces would to some extent come to bare on Ecuador itself, were they to follow through with this.”
A lot of media outside Ecuadorean embassy in London waiting for Assange (RT photo)
General view of the flag handing on the exterior of the Ecuadorian embassy in London on July 19, 2012 (AFP Photo / Andrew Cowie)
Television camermen line up their camera’s on the entrance of the building housing the Ecuadorian embassy in London on July 19, 2012 (AFP Photo / Andrew Cowie)
Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ricardo Patino (C), Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Marco Albuja (R) and Undersecretary for North America and Europe, Paul Villagomez attend a news conference regarding WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange in Quito June 19, 2012 (Reuters / Foreign Ministry of Ecuador / Handout)
Police stand outside the building housing the Ecuadorian embassy in London on July 19, 2012 (AFP Photo / Andrew Cowie)
The square is a legend that would fall if the families of martyrs stopped to believe in it.
The dream is the alternative to the regime, if we let go of it for realistic, rational and committed debates that follow the right order of priorities, it would perish.
If the legend falls and the dream perishes, the collective will break up. Destiny wouldn’t respond if the collective breaks up. What we know of God is that he is with the collective.
Leave the experts behind and listen to the poets, for we are in a revolution. Let go of the mind and hold onto the dream, for we are in a revolution. Beware of caution and embrace the unknown, for we are in a revolution. Celebrate the martyrs, for amidst ideas, symbols, stories, spectacles and dreams, nothing is real but their blood and nothing is guaranteed but their eternity.
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