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WikiLeaks suspends publication to battle 'banking blockade'

Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange stands in front of a backdrop featuring inverted banking company logos at a news conference Monday in London.

WikiLeaks, online publisher of leaked government and corporate documents, has temporarily suspended  publication, and founder Julian Assange said Monday that the controversial site will cease to exist at year’s end if it is unable to circumvent what it calls a “banking blockade” that is choking off its financial support.

The suspension of publication was announced on Sunday in a statement (.pdf) on the WikiLeaks website, which said that an “arbitrary and unlawful financial blockade” imposed on Dec. 7, 2010, by the U.S. and other governments “destroyed 95 percent of our revenue.” It blamed the funding cutoff on on its publication of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables in November.

Sharp criticism of the publication by U.S. officials led numerous financial institutions – including Bank of America, Visa, MasterCard, eBay Inc unit PayPal and Western Union. – to block donations to the whistle-blowing organization.

The WikiLeaks statement said the publishing suspension would allow members of the secretive group to focus on fund-raising.

At a news conference Monday in London, Assange said that WikiLeaks only has enough cash on hand to cover the next few months.

 "If WikiLeaks does not find a way to remove this blockade we will simply not be able to continue by the turn of the new year," he said. "If we don't knock down the blockade we simply will not be able to continue."

The WikiLeaks statement said the organization is challenging the financial action in an antitrust complaint filed with the European Commission and has initiated “pre-litigation” action in the U.S.,U.K., Iceland, Denmark, Brussels and Australia.