Canberra announced it will offer consular support to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who's being held in Britain. Meanwhile, hackers shut down the web sites of companies that cut business ties with WikiLeaks.
Assange is an Australian citizen
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said on Wednesday that the country will provide consular help to WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, who is currently being held in Britain for sex crimes allegedly committed in Sweden.
Rudd said Assange had contacted the Australian Consul General in London and asked for support.
"We have confirmed we will provide that, as we do for all Australian citizens," the foreign minister told ABC radio, adding that consular officials were present for Assange's hearing in London on Tuesday after Sweden issued a European arrest warrant for him.
Wikileaks has obtained a quarter million documents US diplomatic cables
Meanwhile, an anonymous group of "hacktivists" launched an online attack known as 'Operation Payback' to shut down the websites of Mastercard and Swiss bank PostFinance after the companies severed business ties with WikiLeaks.
The group, dubbed AnoniOperation sent a message on Twitter that "www.mastercard.com/ is down" and that the site of the credit card giant could not be accessed.
PostFinance confirmed Wednesday that its website had been attacked after it closed Assange's bank account on Monday.
A British court denied Assange bail on the grounds that he posed a significant flight risk, and he is to remain in British custody until his next court appearance on Dec. 14. Assange denies the charges.
Top human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson will represent Assange in his fight against extradition from Britain to Sweden, Robertson's office said on Wednesday.
WikiLeaks responded to the jailing of its founder by publishing a new batch of secret diplomatic cables on Wednesday.
Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister said Assange was not legally liable for the leaks
Over the past year, WikiLeaks has released secret documents from the US government, including a recent batch of U.S. diplomatic cables that have been an ongoing source of national embarrassment. The website and Assange have both come under fire in the United States as threats to national security.
Kevin Rudd, himself the topic of an internal diplomatic memo labeling him a "mistake-prone control freak," said the US was to blame for the leak, not WikiLeaks or Assange.
"My view is the core problem lies with the US protection of its own diplomatic communications," Rudd said.
US Attorney General Eric Holder said he would be looking into the possibility of any crimes that could be associated with the leaking of the documents.
Author: Sarah Harman (Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Rob Turner