Assange: WikiLeaks to speed release of leaked docs

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LONDON (AP) — WikiLeaks will step up its publication schedule of secret documents, founder Julian Assange announced Tuesday, promising more revelations based on the group’s stash of confidential U.S. embassy cables and other leaks.

Assange, 39, spoke to reporters outside London’s high-security Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court, where he and his lawyers appeared for a hearing in his fight against extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted in a sex-crimes inquiry.

WikiLeaks sparked an international uproar when it began publishing hundreds of classified U.S. diplomatic cables late last year, revelations that caused weeks worth of embarrassing news stories for the U.S. and its allies. But the flow of leaks, published in The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais, has slowed recently amid a barrage of online attacks, financial difficulties and the Swedish prosecution of Assange.

The Australian computer expert said that would soon change, hinting that new media outlets were being made party to the leaks.

“We are stepping up our publishing for matters related to Cablegate and other materials,” Assange said. “Those will shortly be occurring through our newspaper partners around the world — big and small newspapers and some human rights organizations.”

He did not elaborate, returning to court with his lawyers without taking questions.

The WikiLeaks frontman has been under strict curfew at a manor in eastern England since his arrest last month on rape and molestation accusations stemming from encounters with two women during a trip to Sweden last summer.

The Swedish case has divided world opinion. Assange and his supporters say he is being prosecuted for political reasons, something denied by Swedish authorities and Assange’s alleged victims, who insist it has nothing to do with WikiLeaks’ activities.

Assange, wearing a dark suit, was in court for just 10 minutes for a discussion of his next appearance, scheduled for February 7. An outline of Assange’s defense posted to his lawyers’ website said he would argue that the European arrest warrant seeking his detention was improperly issued. It claimed that Assange could be extradited to the United States — and ultimately even executed or sent to Guantanamo Bay — if he were sent to Sweden.

A few people protested outside the London court, with one standing behind a banner proclaiming: “Welcome to the show trial.” There were other protests timed to coincide with the hearing — including one by pro-Kremlin youth activists outside the British Embassy in Moscow.

Earlier Tuesday, WikiLeaks released a statement decrying the death threats in the United States that have been made against Assange. It drew a link between his experience and that of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in an Arizona massacre Saturday that killed six people and touched off a fierce debate over the toxic tone of U.S. political discourse.

WikiLeaks said its staff has been subject to “unprecedented violent rhetoric by U.S. prominent media personalities,” naming former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin as one of those who have called for Assange to be hunted down like a terrorist.

American officials are trying to build a criminal case against WikiLeaks, which along with the State Department cables has also published hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. intelligence files on Iraq and Afghanistan, and a secret helicopter video showing a U.S. attack that killed two Reuters journalists and Iraqis in Baghdad.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Va., has demanded details about the Twitter accounts of Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst in custody who is suspected of supplying WikiLeaks with classified information.

U.S. prosecutors also targeted three other WikiLeaks supporters: Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic parliamentarian, Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp and U.S. programmer Jacob Appelbaum.

WikiLeaks said it suspects other American Internet companies like Facebook Inc. and Google Inc., have also been asked for information. Neither company has commented on the topic.