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Former WikiLeaks informant due to appear before Zurich court

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls for the withdrawal of the prosecution of WikiLeaks informant Rudolf Elmer, a former executive of a privately-owned Swiss bank, who is due to appear before a Zurich court on 19 January 2011 on charges of coercion and violating bank secrecy laws. He could face up to three years in prison if convicted.

Elmer leaked documents to WikiLeaks in 2008 allegedly showing that Bank Julius Baer helped wealthy clients evade taxes by opening offshore accounts. He denies violating Swiss banking laws because the files he provided to WikiLeaks came from the bank's Cayman Islands subsidiary, for which he worked for eight years.

A California court closed WikiLeaks' US-based website for two weeks in 2008 at the request of Bank Julius Baer, which said it was being used for the "unlawful dissemination of stolen bank records and personal account information of its customers."

The bank withdrew its complaint against WikiLeaks a few months later, after protests from many free speech groups, but never abandoned its attempts to have Elmer prosecuted.

Julius Baer spokesman Jan Vonder Muehll has confirmed that the bank is one of the plaintiffs in the case against Elmer but stressed that the case would focus on the release of data to Swiss media, not their publication on WikiLeaks.

Elmer is also alleged to have sent various newspapers, including the Swiss business daily "Cash", a CD in 2005 containing the same information he later gave to WikiLeaks.

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