WikiLeaks founder Assange facing 17 new charges in US
The US Justice Department unveiled 17 new criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange yesterday, saying he unlawfully published the names of classified sources and conspired with and assisted ex-Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in obtaining access to classified information.
The superseding indictment comes a little more than a month after the Justice Department unsealed a narrower criminal case against Assange.
He was initially charged with conspiring with Manning to gain access to a government computer as part of a 2010 leak by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of US military reports about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He now faces a total of 18 criminal counts, and could face many decades in prison if convicted.
"These unprecedented charges demonstrate the gravity of the threat the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange poses to all journalists in their endeavour to inform the public about actions that have been taken by the US government," said Barry Pollack, an attorney for Assange.
The Justice Department said that not only did Assange aid and encourage Manning with the theft of classified materials, but he jeopardised the lives of human sources that included Afghans, Iraqis, journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates and political dissidents from repressive regimes by publishing their identities.
Law enforcement officials said that the State Department had pleaded with Assange not to reveal the identities of such sources, but Wikileaks ignored the warning.
Assange is fighting extradition to the US, after Ecuador revoked his seven-year asylum in the country's London embassy. He was arrested on April 11 by British police as he left the embassy. He is now serving a 50-week sentence in a London jail for skipping bail when he fled to the Ecuadorean embassy in 2012.