Image: Denis Simonet, Pascal Gloor
SEBASTIEN FEVAL  /  AP
Swiss Denis Simonet, right, president of the Pirate Party, and vice president Pascal Gloor left, pose prior to a press conference in Biel, Switzerland, on Friday. Simonet announced the moving of Wikileaks to Switzerland.
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updated 12/5/2010 11:35:23 AM ET 2010-12-05T16:35:23

WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange turned increasingly to Switzerland on Sunday, dodging a barrage of threats online and in the real world to keep access to a trove of U.S. State Department cables under a Swiss Web address.

The elusive founder of the website WikiLeaks said he faced "hundreds of death threats." The site hinged on the Swiss Pirate Party's wikileaks.ch Web address, though the main server in France went offline, leaving the site reachable through a Swedish server.

That site showed Assange had begun seeking donations to an account under his name through the Swiss postal system in Berne, the Swiss capital. He lost a major source of revenue when the online payment service provider PayPal cut off the WikiLeaks account over the weekend.

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PayPal, a subsidiary of U.S.-based online marketplace operator EBay Inc., said the WikiLeaks website, which specializes in disclosing confidential documents, was engaged in illegal activity.

A spokesman for the financial services arm of Swiss Post told the respected Swiss weekly NZZ am Sonntag that it was reviewing its "relationship" with Assange, whose stated reason for opening the account was to have a residence in Geneva.

French web hosting company OVH, which owns the server, didn't immediately respond to calls Sunday.

France's Industry Minister Eric Besson had warned Friday that it was unacceptable to host a site that "violates the secret of diplomatic relations."

The company said earlier that it had been hosting WikiLeaks since early Thursday, after a client asked for a "dedicated server with ... protection against attacks."

The president of the Swiss Pirate Party, which controls the wikileaks.ch Web address, said he was in the process of pointing that domain name to a different server, apparently based in Sweden. The site also was still reachable through the numerical address of its Swedish server.

And the party said it noticed an increasing number of supporters creating "mirrors" of the WikiLeaks site on their own servers, meaning that copies of the site would remain up and running even if WikiLeaks were somehow to lose its own site.

"Even if you take down the server in Sweden, it's too late," Swiss Pirate Party Vice President Pascal Gloor told The Associated Press on Sunday.

"There are hundreds of mirrors of WikiLeaks now," he said. "It's a test for Internet censorship. Can governments take something off the net? I think not. There are copies of the website everywhere."

In a high-tech media building in Bienne, Switzerland, the party convened an impromptu news conference late Friday to say it had no special knowledge of Assange's whereabouts or ability to contact him, but had spoken with him weeks ago to help seek asylum in Switzerland. That was during Assange's visit to Geneva last month when he spoke to reporters at the United Nations.

Starting Friday, the Swiss Web address wikileaks.ch became the site's main access point after EveryDNS, a company based in Manchester, New Hampshire, stopped accepting traffic to the site's principal address — wikileaks.org — saying cyber attacks threatened the rest of its network.

Amazon stopped hosting WikiLeaks' Web site and governments and hackers were continuing to go after the organization.

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News media reports were filled with stories about the hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, which is coming under intense legal pressure in several countries, including the United States.

In an online chat with El Pais in Spain, Assange said the hunt for him was tough. He remains free while his website spews daily embarrassment and potential diplomatic damage to the U.S.

"We have hundreds of specific death threats from U.S. military militants. That is not unusual, and we have become practiced from past experiences at ignoring such threats from Islamic extremists, African kleptocrats and so on," he said.

"Recently the situation has changed with these threats now extending out to our lawyers and my children," he added. "However, it is the specific calls from the elites of U.S. society for our assassination, kidnapping and execution that is more concerning."

Assange, who is now in Britain, according to his British lawyer, is wanted in Sweden to face allegations of sexual offenses against two women, charges he denies, but the United States has not lodged any charges against him. Nor has Britain.

In the Swedish case, Assange is the target of a European extradition process which normally takes months to produce an arrest.

___

Frank Jordans contributed from Geneva.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Assange readies ‘poison pill’ in case of arrest

  1. Closed captioning of: Assange readies ‘poison pill’ in case of arrest

    >>> now to the latest on wikileaks . one week after the release of hundreds of thousands of state department cables, after companies in this country and france took down the wikileaks web site , sweden and switzerland became the main access points. as for the man behind wikileaks , he says he continues to receive death threats . peter alexander has the latest from london. peter, good evening.

    >> lester, good evening to you. one month to the day since julian assange was last seen publicly. the illusive founder of wikileaks remains defiant, now threatening he could expose another tidal wave of sensitive information if anything happens to him.

    >> reporter: it's a secret cache of unsensorored files. julian assange is threatening to release the archive of documents if his web site is shut down or he's arrested. assange told online readers that more than 100,000 people worldwide have already downloaded the heavily encrypted files. if something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically, he wrote. the files are believed to include documents on bp, bank of america and guantanamo bay with one reportedly called insurance locked by a 256-digit cold that only assange knows.

    >> it's a ticking time bomb with a remote fuse so this bomb can go off the second that they release the key. and the key will spread around the internet in a matter of seconds.

    >> reporter: assange's lawyer defended the move on the bbc today, arguing wikileaks has been the target of attacks and censorship.

    >> they need to protect them sfs and they believe this is a thermal nuclear device in the electronic age .

    >> reporter: the latest cables as reported in the "new york times" revealed blunt often pessimism tis efforts in the u.s. efforts to disrupt terrorist finances in the middle east . donors in saudi arabia constitute the most significant source of funding worldwide. others describe the united arab emits as a gap. kuwait as a key transit point. one republican today called assange a high-tech terrorist.

    >> he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law.

    >> reporter: of the 39-year-old is wanted for keing by swedish authorities after allegations he raped and sexually assaulted two women in august, accusations he vehemently denies. even if he's arrested, it could be some time before assange would return to sweden.

    >> anticipate a final result within six months.

    >> as for the wikileaks threat, assange's lawyer tells nbc news that only 261 out of 250,000 files have been exposed and more continue to be released. u.s. government officials and future diplomats including college students, have been receiving warnings not to read those sensitive duocuments.

    >> it's hard to believe no one was keeping track of him. is there any idea where he might be tonight?

    >> well, there is indications tonight, including some from his own attorney, that he is still here in britain. they're not saying specifically where he is. they say because of those death threats they are not disclosing that information. scotland yard has said that it will contact assange's attorneys before they make the arrest, but at this point, nothing is is so far.

    >> peter, thank you.

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