WikiLeaks' Assange blames U.S. right for funding block

Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:03pm EST
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By Alessandra Prentice and Adrian Croft

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange accused "hard-right" U.S. politicians on Tuesday of pressing European credit card firms to block more than $50 million of donations to the website that published thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Assange, speaking to reporters at the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he took refuge in June to avoid extradition to Sweden, said the credit card companies' action had forced WikiLeaks to reduce the volume of documents it posted online.

Assange lamented a preliminary ruling by the European Commission on Tuesday that it was unlikely Visa Europe, MasterCard Europe and American Express Co had violated EU anti-trust rules with their blocks on processing WikiLeaks donations.

Assange said MasterCard had acknowledged in filings with the European Commission it had spoken to the staffs of Joseph Lieberman, an independent U.S. senator who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Republican Representative Peter King, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee.

This was evidence, Assange said, that "hard-right U.S. politicians were directly behind the extrajudicial banking blockade against WikiLeaks".

He said the action had blocked 95 percent of WikiLeaks' donations from Europe and cost it at least $50 million.

Lieberman and King were not immediately reachable for comment.

"DIFFICULT" STAY   Continued...