LONDON, (AFP) – Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks faced growing pressure Friday as Sweden issued a new arrest warrant for its elusive chief and it battled cyber attacks and government attempts to force it offline.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange briefly broke cover to say he had boosted his security after receiving death threats amid the diplomatic storm unleashed by his site’s publication of some 250,000 secret US cables.
The website meanwhile had to find a new Swiss domain name after its original wikileaks.org address was shut down by an American provider due to the attacks, while Paris tried to ban French servers from hosting it.
Assange, who is believed to be in Britain, held a online question and answer session with The Guardian newspaper in which he vowed to resist the “attacks against us by the US.”
“The threats against our lives are a matter of public record. However, we are taking the appropriate precautions to the degree that we are able when dealing with a superpower,” the 39-year-old Australian wrote.
A Canadian pundit called earlier this week for Assange to be assassinated, while former US Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said those responsible for the leaks should face execution.
In Stockholm Swedish prosecutors sent out a new international arrest warrant for Assange on sex crimes allegations that included missing elements requested by the British police.
“They were asking for additional information concerning the maximum penalty for all the crimes and infractions on the file. We usually only include the most severe offence,” which was rape in this case, prosecution office spokeswoman Karin Rosander told AFP.
Assange’s lawyer in London, Mark Stephens, said that neither Scotland Yard nor he had received the warrant.
Stephens linked the warrant to “sophisticated” efforts to take down the website, suggesting that a “state actor” was behind efforts to silence Assange.
The whistleblower site came back online Friday with its new Swiss address — wikileaks.ch — six hours after its previous domain name was shut down by a US system provider following a series of attacks.
“WikiLeaks moves to Switzerland,” the group declared on Twitter, although an Internet trace of the new domain name suggested that the site itself is still hosted in Sweden and in France, after it was kicked off Amazon’s US servers.
But France’s Industry Minister Eric Besson called for WikiLeaks to be banned from French servers.
“France cannot host Internet sites that violate the confidentiality of diplomatic relations and put in danger people protected by diplomatic secrecy,” Besson wrote to the CGIET, the highest body governing the Internet in France.
French web provider OVH said it would ask a judge to rule on whether it could continue to host WikiLeaks.
Amazon booted WikiLeaks off its computer servers on Wednesday following pressure from US politicians, and a day later a group of senators introduced legislation to make it illegal to publish the names of informants serving the US military and intelligence community.
WikiLeaks branded Amazon “cowardly” in a Twitter message on Friday.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described the leaks as “an attack on the world” and has expressed her regret to Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari over their content.
Russia has also been upset by the leaks in which it has been branded a virtual “mafia state” and President Dmitry Medvedev derided as a “Robin” to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s “Batman”.
At a press conference on Friday with visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – himself a target of some of the cables – Medvedev said the cables illustrated the “cynicism” of US foreign policy.
“They show the entire extent of the cynicism of these evaluations, these judgements, that prevail in the various governments’ foreign policies – and in this case I am talking about the United States,” Medvedev said.
Assange, meanwhile, promised that further revelations would be out of this world.
“It is worth noting that in yet-to-be-published parts of the ‘cablegate’ archive there are indeed references to UFOs,” he wrote on The Guardian’s website.