Wikileaks co-founder has been hit with 17 new charges filed by the US Justice Department
Wikileaker co-founder Julian Assange faces more legal problems after the US Justice Department filed more charges against him.
Assange is currently serving a 50 week sentence at Belmarsh prison in London for breaching the Bail Act.
Assange had been arrested last month, when British police entered the Ecuadorian Embassy and dragged him out, after a seven year stalemate.
As soon as he was arrested in April for breaking his bail conditions, Assange was also further arrested on behalf of the United States.
This was done under an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act.
Assange was charged by the US with one count of conspiring with Bradley Manning (now Chelsea Manning), to gain access to the Pentagon network.
Manning had leaked the sensitive American government files while serving as a private in the US Army as an intelligence analyst.
The US has always alleged its top secret files were illegally received by Julian Assange, who was then the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, which went on to publish the documents.
And now the US justice department has filed 17 new charges against Assange, accusing him of receiving and unlawfully publishing the names of classified sources.
Reading through the new indictment, it accuses Assange of violating the US espionage act by publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010.
It states that Assange actively “repeatedly encouraged sources with access to classified information to steal and provide it to Wikileaks to disclose.”
It said that at the time Manning was deployed to forward operating base Hammer in Iraq.
Manning had ‘top secret’ security clearance and had signed a classified information non-disclosure agreement.
But the US alleges that beginning in November 2009, Manning responded to Assange’s solicitation of classified information.
“Manning was in direct contact with Assange, who encouraged Manning to steal classified documents from the United States and unlawfully disclose that information to Wikileaks,” the US indictment reads.
The US also alleges that that Assange encouraged Manning “to continue her theft of classified documents and agreed to help her crack a password hash to a military computer.”
The US also alleges that Assange “revealed the names of human sources and created a grave and imminent risk to human life” – including the names of local Afghans, Iraqis, Chinese and Iranians.
These new US charges are extremely serious for Assange, as he had originally been facing roughly five years in prison in the US on the original conspiracy charge.
But now many of these new charges could each entail jail terms of five to 10 years, meaning Assange could face decades in prison if convicted.
Assange had been arrested in London in April, after he had fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge in June 2012.
Seven years later Ecuador withdrew its protection of Assange.
He had fled to their embassy after he lost his final plea to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he had faced allegations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010.
Those charges were dropped in 2015.
But now Swedish authorities are once again seeking his extradition, after they reopened an investigation into the 2010 rape allegation.
UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid will have to decide which country will take precedence in their requests for Assange, once he is released from British prison.
Chelsea Manning meanwhile is back in prison in the United States, after she was last week was sent back to jail at the Alexandria Detention Center for contempt of court.
This is the second time that Manning has been jailed for the same reason, but this sentence may last much longer than the previous one.
Earlier this month Manning, aged 31, had been briefly freed after she spent 62 days in prison for contempt of court when she refused in March to answer grand jury questions about an investigation into Wikileaks.
The term of that grand jury expired earlier this month and Manning was subsequently released.
But her freedom was to be short lived, as she expected to be jailed again last week because prior to her release she had been served with another subpoena to appear before a different grand jury this week.
She told a judge she’d rather “starve to death” than co-operate with prosecutors, leaving the US judge no option but to jail her.
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