(AFP) – Mar 6, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — Julius Baer & Company LTD on Wednesday abandoned, for now, its legal quest to shut down whistleblower website Wikileaks.
Lawyers for the Swiss bank filed a motion to dismiss the case five days after a federal judge in San Francisco ruled the website's postings of leaked documents is protected as free speech by the US Constitution.
"I think they are recognizing what the judge made clear on Friday," said Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Matt Zimmerman, who was on the Wikileaks defense team.
"It seems the plaintiff decided there wasn't much point in going forward and we agree with that."
The motion filed on the bank's behalf states that Julius Baer "voluntarily dismisses" the action but reserves the right to pursue the matter at a different time or court.
Wikileaks is striving to be an "uncensorable" online compendium of "untraceable" documents that expose wrongdoing but not identities of those providing the information, its creators say in a website posting.
Wikileaks claims to have more than 1.2 million documents from dissident communities and anonymous sources.
Julius Baer went after Wikileaks in court in San Francisco after the website posted copies of internal documents indicating the company helped customers launder money illegally through the Cayman Islands.
Julius Baer denies any such accusations and argued in court that Wikipedia was violating law by displaying its private paperwork online.
On February 15, the bank convinced federal judge Jeffrey White to issue an injunction ordering the website to shut down.
White reversed his decision Friday, saying Wikileaks has free speech rights and advising Julius Baer to "take a deep breath" and mull the wisdom of proceeding with the case.
The injunction failed to stop Wikileaks from operating because it uses computer servers outside the US borders.
WikiLeaks' website says the organization was founded by "Chinese dissidents, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa."
Instead of stifling the barely year-old website, the legal battle made it an Internet celebrity.
A day before the judge reversed his decision, the bank issued a statement saying it "is not and has never been Julius Baer's intention to stifle anyone's right to free speech."
"Julius Baer's sole objective has always been limited to the removal of these private and legally protected documents from the website," the company said in its statement.
"However, Julius Baer denies the authenticity of this material and wholly rejects the serious and defamatory allegations which it contains."
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