Justice Department is preparing to prosecute Julian Assange

Saul Bowman
November 17, 2018

The U.S. government may be preparing criminal charges against WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange, according to suggestions in a document filed in an unrelated case. United States officials refused to comment on the disclosure in the document which asked for the charges against Mr Assange to to remain under wraps until his arrest.

That hypothesis appeared closer to reality after prosecutors, in an errant court filing in an unrelated case, inadvertently revealed the existence of sealed charges. "That was not the intended name for this filing", the spokesman, Joshua Stueve, said in an email. Chelsea Manning. In a Twitter post early Friday, WikiLeaks said the "US case against WikiLeaks started in 2010" and expanded to include other disclosures, including by contractor Edward Snowden.

Barry Pollack, one of Assange's attorneys, said, "The only thing more irresponsible than charging a person for publishing truthful information would be to put in a public filing information that clearly was not intended for the public and without any notice to Mr. Assange".

Assange's lawyer in the USA told the Times the charges were "troubling".

It was not immediately clear what charges Assange, who has been holed up for more than six years in the embassy, might face. USA intelligence agencies concluded that the emails were taken by Russian government hackers as part of an operation aimed at helping the campaign of Donald Trump.

Assange, who had leaked tons of classified documents in 2010, has been living in hiding in Ecuador.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged in the United States, the organization said, in a development that could have implications for Rober Mueller's probe into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

Greg Barns, an Australian lawyer advising Assange, said in a statement it was "no surprise" that the United States was seeking to charge Assange, and Australian officials should allow Assange to return there. Some of President Donald Trump's associates, including former strategist Roger Stone, face questioning in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation over their potential ties to WikiLeaks.

Long a thorn in the side of the US government, Assange has spent years hunkered down in the Ecuadorian embassy in London fearing extradition. Federal prosecutors asked the court to seal its criminal complaint and arrest warrant against a man named Seitu Sulayman Kokayi-for "coercion and enticement of a juvenile to engage in unlawful sexual activity"-to avoid tipping the suspect off".

He was initially treated as a welcome guest but a change in government in Ecuador last March led to a crackdown on visits and internet access.

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