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WikiLeaks Lawyer Warns U.S. Charges Against Assange Endanger Press Freedom Worldwide

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The Justice Department has inadvertently revealed that it has prepared an indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In an unusual development, language about the charges against Assange was copied and pasted into an unrelated court filing that was recently unsealed. In the document, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer wrote, "Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged." The news broke on Thursday night just hours after The Wall Street Journal reported the Justice Department was planning to prosecute Assange.

Assange has been living since 2012 in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he has sought refuge and political asylum. It's unclear what charges may be brought against Assange; the Justice Department has previously considered prosecuting him over his role in the release of hacked DNC emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as over the release of the so-called Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs, shared by U.S. military whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

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The Assange case has been closely followed by advocates for press freedom. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch tweeted, "Deeply troubling if the Trump administration, which has shown little regard for media freedom, would charge Assange for receiving from a government official and publishing classified information -- exactly what journalists do all the time." We speak with human rights attorney Jennifer Robinson, who has been advising Julian Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

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AMY GOODMAN: The Justice Department has inadvertently revealed it has prepared an indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In an unusual development, language about the charges against Assange were copied and pasted into an unrelated court filing that was recently unsealed. In the document, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen Dwyer wrote, "Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged," unquote. The news broke Thursday night just hours after The Wall Street Journal reported the Justice Department was planning to prosecute Assange.

Julian Assange has been living since 2012 in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he has sought refuge and political asylum. It's unclear what charges may be brought against Assange; the Justice Department has previously considered prosecuting him over his role in the release of hacked DNC emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as over the release of the so-called Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs, shared by U.S. military whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

The Assange case has been closely followed by advocates for press freedom. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch tweeted, "Deeply troubling if the Trump administration, which has shown little regard for media freedom, would charge Assange for receiving from a government official and publishing classified information -- exactly what journalists do all the time."

We go now to London, where we're joined by human rights attorney Jennifer Robinson. She's been advising Julian Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Jen Robinson. Can you talk about this inadvertent revealing of the intent to arrest Julian Assange?

JENNIFER ROBINSON: This is confirmation of what we've been concerned about and been talking about since 2010. It is the reason, of course, that Julian Assange was -- sought asylum and granted asylum inside the Ecuadorean Embassy and the reason he remains there today. This confirms what we've been saying, that there is a very real risk that the United States is going to seek to prosecute him for his publishing activities and potentially seek to extradite him, and that if there was to be an indictment, it would be sealed, it would be secret, and we wouldn't know that it existed until such time as he was in custody. This is precisely what we've learned from the inadvertent disclosure from the U.S. Department of Justice overnight, and it confirms the concerns we've had and the reason why he was granted asylum in the first place.

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AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about his reaction? Have you spoken to him inside the Ecuadorean Embassy right now?

JENNIFER ROBINSON: I haven't yet been able to speak to him personally. I'm going into the embassy shortly to discuss it with him. But, of course, we are concerned. There have been rumors over the past few weeks about what might happen.

But, of course, we must remember that this disclosure came from the Eastern District of Virginia. This is a criminal investigation that was started in 2010 in relation to disclosures made by WikiLeaks and The New York Times and The Guardian and other major newspapers around the world, which revealed evidence of U.S. war crimes, evidence that the United States had not been honest with the American public about how many civilians had been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These are important public interest disclosures.

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Isn't it weird, how Journalists all over the World are remaining silent, with the exception of a few, on the issue of Assange. There for the Grace Of God, it could be themselves.

The Australian Government too, needs to come under scrutiny for it's reasons for not standing by one of it's own citizens,

for whom they should be fighting tooth and nail to protect him and bring him home. Clearly, demonstrating the cowards they all are in Canberra, terrified to upset their masters in Washington.

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 18, 2018 at 7:53:05 AM

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