Friday, June 22, 2018

Julian Assange could be prosecution's next target

The conviction of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning on espionage charges Tuesday makes it increasingly likely that the United States will prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as a co-conspirator, according to his attorney and other civil liberties groups.

Military prosecutors in Manning's court-martial portrayed Assange as an "information anarchist" who encouraged Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents. And they insisted that the anti-secrecy group cannot be considered a media organization that published the leaked information in the public interest.

"Defense lawyers denied the claim that Bradley Manning was acting under the direction of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, but the government kept trying to bring that up, trying to essentially say that Julian was a co-conspirator," said Michael Ratner, Assange's American attorney and the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. "That's a very bad sign about what the U.S. government wants to do to Julian Assange."

A grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks is ongoing, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. But is unclear if any sealed indictments exist and whether Assange has been charged.

There are still major hurdles to prosecuting Assange, not least because he fled to the Embassy of Ecuador in London when he was facing extradition to Sweden to be questioned in connection with allegations of sexual assault. Assange, who has since been given political asylum by Ecuador, has now been in the embassy for more than a year. There is still a Swedish warrant for his arrest.

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