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WikiLeaks funded via Pirate Bay-linked firm

Swedish micropay site Flattr, which was launched by The Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde, remains one of the sole online financial lifelines for embattled whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks funded via Pirate Bay-linked firm
The Pirate Bay's Peter Sunde (left) and other Flattr staff

Credit card operators MasterCard and Visa and rival online payment system PayPal have shut down donations to WikiLeaks in the last week on the grounds that the site engages in illegal activities.

“As long as there is no sign that they are doing anything illegal, we will continue,” Flattr spokesman Niklas Silfverström told The Local on Thursday.

According to WikiLeaks, the site also accepts donations via transfers through an Icelandic bank, as well as a German foundation. But after Swiss/Icelandic internet company DataCell suspended an online donation system linked to Visa and MasterCard, Flattr is now the only way to make online donations to WikiLeaks.

Unlike PayPal, Flattr, which is based in Limhamn in Malmö in southern Sweden, charges a minimal €2 monthly fee, with which users can donate as little as €0.01 (9 öre, $0.01) – or less – to websites they want to support.

Sunde described the site as “not actually micropayments, it’s nanopayments” in an FT.com Tech Blog article in July.

“The idea had already been initiated in 2007, but the first release was in 2010 due to typical geeky laziness,” the company wrote on its website.

The site, named both for flattering someone and a flat-rate payment model, believes it is attractive to users who would otherwise hesitate to donate amounts under €10 since users can donate as little as €0.01 – or less.

The site now has 50,000 user accounts compared with 20,000 members prior to its open beta launch in August.

Traffic to the site spiked following the release of WikiLeaks’ Iraq documents in August, but Silfverström said it remains unclear whether the site has received more traffic after MasterCard, Visa and PayPal banned donations to WikiLeaks.

Users can deposit funds into a Flattr account through Visa, MasterCard or Nordea through MoneyBookers or PayPal, both of which charge fees.

When asked whether he thought it was ironic that Flattr is funded through the credit card companies, Silfverström said, “We are trying to find alternative means to do transactions and payouts, but we depend on the bigger organisations.”

“The difference is we distribute the money to WikiLeaks, but there is always the risk that we will be shut down too,” he added.

Last week, Flattr won a grant worth more than 320,000 kronor from Swedish innovation agency Vinnova to expedite the site’s international expansion. Silfverström said the funds will be used to develop newer services with Flattr and look at ways to expand.

Regarding Sunde’s activity on Flattr, Silfverström said, “He is involved on occasion, but he has other things on his mind right now.”

Sunde’s jail term for his involvement with The Pirate Bay was reduced to eight months at the end of last month.

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JULIAN ASSANGE

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer

Julian Assange would cooperate with Swedish authorities if they reopen a rape case against him but will continue to resist any bid to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said Sunday.

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer
Julian Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson in London on Thursday. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham/TT

“We are absolutely happy to answer those queries if and when they come up,” Jennifer Robinson told Sky News television about the rape claims.

“The key issue at the moment is US extradition, which we have warned about for many years,” she added.

The WikiLeaks founder is in custody in London awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was arrested at the embassy on Thursday after Ecuador gave him up, and is now also fighting a US extradition warrant relating to the release by WikiLeaks of a huge cache of official documents.

The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The first expired in 2015 and the other was dropped in 2017, but the alleged rape victim has now asked for the case to be reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, the British government will have to decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.

Robinson said Assange would seek assurances from Sweden that he would not be sent on to America, saying: “That is the same assurance we were seeking in 2010 and the refusal to give that is why he sought asylum.”

She added: “He's not above the law. Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or indeed Swedish justice. This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice.”

The US indictment charges Assange with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

He faces up to five years in jail.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

But Robinson insisted: “This indictment clearly engages newsgathering activities and the kinds of communications that journalists have with sources all the time.”

The lawyer condemned as “outrageous” claims made by Ecuador about Assange's behaviour in the embassy, including that he smeared his faeces on the wall, saying: “That's not true.”

Quito also accused him of failing to care for his cat. WikiLeaks said Assange had asked his lawyers to “rescue him (the cat) from embassy threats” in October, adding: “They will be reunited in freedom.”

Assange's father, John Shipton, on Sunday urged Australia to bring his son home.

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