LONDON, (AFP) – WikiLeaks was battling to stay online on Saturday after Sweden issued a new arrest warrant for its elusive boss Julian Assange, while PayPal axed donations access for the whistleblowing website.
The Times newspaper, citing police sources, reported that Assange – who is believed to be in Britain – could be arrested next week. Other media suggested that the 39-year-old Australian could face arrest within 10 days.
Across in Stockholm, Swedish prosecutors have issued a new international arrest warrant for Assange on sex assault allegations that incorporated missing elements which had been requested by 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.
A Scotland Yard spokesman added: “We are only discussing a matter after someone has been arrested or been brought to court.”
Assange broke cover on Friday to say in an online chat that he had boosted security after receiving death threats amid the storm that was unleashed by his site’s decision to publish 250,000 US diplomatic cables.
The WikiLeaks website was meanwhile forced to turn to Switzerland for a new domain name after its original wikileaks.org address was shut down by an American provider, while Paris tried to ban French servers from hosting it.
The Swiss address – Wikileaks.ch – was up and running again on Saturday after migrating to new servers, the group which owns the name said.
And in a fresh twist, US-based online financial transactions service PayPal revealed overnight that it would stop taking donations for WikiLeaks.
“PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal acceptable use policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity,” it said in a statement.
In a message on its Twitter feed, WikiLeaks blamed “US government pressure” for the PayPal ban.
Over the past several days, WikiLeaks has published the first of the cables, creating an international firestorm as American diplomats’ private assessments of foreign leaders and politics has been publicly aired.
The release marked the third major publication of secret US files by WikiLeaks this year, after the site had published tens of thousands of American military files from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.
The United States and other governments said the release of the documents were against their laws.
The latest cables showed US officials suspected that Yemen had a secret cache of shoulder-fired missiles that could have threatened US forces if the weapons fell into the wrong hands.
Other cables highlighted what US officials described as Britain’s “paranoia” about its so-called special relationship with Washington.
In an online chat with The Guardian newspaper, Assange vowed on Friday 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 Australian wrote.
Former US Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has said those responsible for supplying the leaked cables should face execution, while some pundits have called for Assange to be assassinated.
Assange’s lawyer in London, Mark Stephens, said that neither Scotland Yard nor he had received the new arrest warrant released by Sweden.
Stephens linked the warrant to “sophisticated” efforts to take down the website, suggesting that a “state actor” was behind efforts to silence Assange.
In France, Industry Minister Eric Besson called for WikiLeaks to be banned from French servers, saying it was endangering lives.
“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 main body governing the Internet in France.
Amazon booted WikiLeaks off its computer servers on Wednesday after pressure from US politicians.
One 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.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has described the leaks as “an attack on the world”, has contacted dozens of foreign leaders and will continue to do so for “the next weeks,” she told journalists on Saturday.
“I haven’t seen everybody in the world, and apparently there are 252,000 of these things (leaks) out there in cyberspace somewhere,” she said, noting with a smile that they had not yet all been published.
“So I think I’ll have some outreach to continue doing over the next weeks just to make sure that as things become public, if they raise concerns, I will be prepared to reach out and talk to my counterparts and heads of state and governments,” she added on the plane taking her back to Washington.
The White House told government agencies Friday to take measures to prevent employees without proper authorisation from accessing classified US diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks.
The US military in Iraq is also trying to prevent soldiers from viewing WikiLeaks documents and has posted a web advisory suggesting they could be breaking the law, a spokeswoman said.