The lawyer who represented the man behind darknet market Silk Road is to defend WikiLeaks against a lawsuit from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) connected to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Joshua Dratel has notified the judge overseeing the DNC's federal lawsuit against WikiLeaks that he would be representing the controversial organisation in court.

In a statement tweeted by WikiLeaks, Mr Dratel said: "The lawsuit against WikiLeaks is entirely without merit, and this case presents critical First Amendment issues that we look forward to litigating."

In a federal lawsuit filed in Manhattan, the DNC alleged that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Hillary Clinton and tilt the election in Mr Trump's favour by hacking Democratic Party computers.

The US president's campaign has dismissed the case as frivolous and predicted it will be dismissed in due course.

Russia "mounted a brazen attack on American democracy", the DNC claims, alleging that thousands of documents and emails were extracted from DNC computers in the hack.

Image: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is heading up the Russia probe

During the course of the election, WikiLeaks published emails stolen from the DNC, and reports have suggested that the organisation and Julian Assange actively sought to co-ordinate its releases with members of the Trump campaign.

In August, WikiLeaks published a letter from the US senate committee investigating Russian election interference, asking Julian Assange to give evidence.

It comes as Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia continues.

Despite comments appearing to support WikiLeaks made on the campaign trail, Donald Trump declined to continue to support Assange after becoming president.

The letter follows an indictment in the US accusing 12 Russian military intelligence officers of hacking into the DNC and Clinton campaign and stealing emails which were published by WikiLeaks.

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Although the indictment does not specifically name WikiLeaks, the activities of "Organisation 1" that are described in the legal filing match those of the organisation.

WikiLeaks denied that the emails were provided to it by a hostile intelligence agency and instead encouraged a conspiracy theory in which they were provided by Seth Rich, a DNC employee and the victim of an unsolved murder.

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