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However, Oscar Swartz, the founder of Banhof, Sweden’s first Internet provider, said it’s not so much the wording of the laws that have attracted online rebels to Sweden, but how they are applied.

“Lawyers in the U.S. … use the law in an adamant way and try to find any opportunity they can to throw spanners into the works of people,” he said. “We don’t use the law in that way in Sweden.”

Swedish law enforcement cannot issue an injunction to close a website before a court has convicted the publishers of a crime, but can seize a server as part of a criminal investigation, said Johan Lundmark, deputy director at the Justice Ministry. He questioned whether it could be considered a crime in Sweden to leak classified U.S. documents.

The Swedish prosecutor handling media issues has previously rejected Russian calls for an investigation into a Swedish-based Chechen rebel website, saying the country’s laws are aimed at protecting public order in Sweden, not in “Russia or elsewhere in the world.”

That indicates U.S. officials may only be able to target WikiLeaks’ servers by demanding legal assistance from Swedish police for their own criminal investigation.

“At the end of the day, it will all boil down to some kind of interpretation by some authority, which will consider … if there is a possibility to assist the American police with the support of existing rules,” Lundmark said. “This is a complicated issue and there are loads of questions that could pop up.”

Still, in the case of filesharing website The Pirate Bay, extensive communication took place between lobby groups for the U.S. entertainment industry and the Swedish government before the prosecutor pressed charges against the operators.

The four men behind The Pirate Bay last year were sentenced to one year in prison each and ordered to pay combined damages of 30 million kronor ($4.1 million). They have appealed and the website is still running while they await a retrial.

WikiLeaks’ servers are hosted by the same company as The Pirate Bay. And that’s not the only link between the two.

In the list of credits at the end of a military video of an attack on unarmed men in Iraq, Wikileaks thanked The Pirate Bay’s reclusive technical mastermind, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, for his assistance.


Associated Press Writer Karl Ritter contributed to this report.