Monday 23 September 2019

'Cut and paste error' reveals Assange to face charges in US

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy. Photo: Getty Images
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy. Photo: Getty Images

Carla De Wintours

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has been charged under seal in the US, prosecutors have accidentally revealed.

American prosecutors obtained a sealed indictment against Mr Assange, whose website published thousands of classified US government documents, a US federal court document showed.

The document, which prosecutors say was filed by mistake, asks a judge to seal documents in a criminal case unrelated to Mr Assange, and carries markings indicating it was originally filed in the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, in August.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters the document was initially sealed but unsealed this week for reasons that are unclear. On Twitter, Wikileaks said it was an "apparent cut-and-paste error".

US officials had no comment on the disclosure in the document about a sealed indictment of Mr Assange. It is unclear what charges Mr Assange faces.

But Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the prosecutors' office which filed the document that was unsealed, told Reuters: "The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing."

Prosecutors sought to keep the charges confidential until after Mr Assange's arrest, the document shows, saying the move was essential to ensure he did not evade or avoid arrest and extradition in the case.

Mr Assange and his supporters have periodically said US authorities had filed secret criminal charges against him.

Facing extradition from Britain to Sweden to be questioned in a sexual molestation case, Mr Assange six years ago took refuge in Ecuador's London embassy, where initially he was treated as a welcome guest.

But following a change in the government of the south American nation, Ecuadorean authorities began to crack down on his access to outsiders.

Irish Independent

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