I remain true to my ideals, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange has declared from his London cell that his convictions have not been shaken by his incarceration.

And he has accused global giants Visa, MasterCard and PayPal of being “instruments of US foreign policy” after they severed links with WikiLeaks since it began publishing its trove of about 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables.

The accusation came in a statement passed on by Mr Assange’s mother Christine ahead of the Australian’s appearance at an extradition hearing in London tonight.

It also coincided with a claim by Mr Assange’s British lawyer, Mark Stephens, that a secret US grand jury had been set up to work on charges that could be filed against the WikiLeaks founder over the embarrassing leaking of US diplomatic documents.

Mr Assange is wanted by authorities in Sweden for questioning over two sex crime allegations. Lawyers have said he denies the allegations and is fighting extradition.

Last week, a judge denied him bail and he is being held in prison pending the court hearing late tonight, Australian time.

In a statement delivered to the Seven Network by Mrs Assange, who has flown to London as her son awaits his court appearance, the WikiLeaks founder told his supporters to keep on fighting.

“My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have always expressed,” he said.

“These circumstances shall not shake them. If anything, this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct.

“I am calling on the world to protect my work and my people from these illegal and immoral acts.”

Mrs Assange reportedly did not meet with her son but spoke with him by phone for 10 minutes, the first time they have talked since his arrest last week.

He reportedly told his mother that CCTV cameras were monitoring his jail cell because of fears he could be assassinated for his role in leaking US documents.

Britain’s government meanwhile said it was on alert for a mass cyber attack on its websites following Mr Assange’s court appearance.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said security adviser Peter Ricketts had told ministries they could be targeted by online “hacktivists”, following attacks on companies including MasterCard, Visa and PayPal.

Outside Sweden’s embassy in London, about 15 people wearing masks bearing Mr Assange’s face demonstrated against the demand for his extradition. Protests are planned outside the court.

Mr Assange’s legal team again voiced fears the US would try to prosecute Mr Assange.

His British lawyer, Mark Stephens, citing unnamed Swedish authorities, said “there has been a secretly empanelled US grand jury in Alexandria”, Virginia, just outside Washington.

If the report proves true, it could mean a US indictment of Mr Assange is possible.

“What we have here is nothing more than holding charges,” Mr Stephens said of the Swedish allegations. `The Americans don’t really (care) whether he’s being held in Sweden or here as long as he’s kind of detained so that they can get their hands on him.”

Mr Assange’s legal team said he would be represented at the London court hearing by Australian lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, a former appeals judge at the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone who has specialised in freedom of speech cases. Former clients include author Salman Rushdie.

Ahead of the hearing, major media figures in Australia wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard in support of WikiLeaks and Mr Assange.

Editors and news directors said the reaction of the US and Australian governments to the leaking of documents had been deeply troubling, and they would strongly resist any attempts to make their publication illegal.

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