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Julian Assange, Wikileaks co-founder, faces 17 new charges in US

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures from the window of a prison van as he is driven into Southwark Crown Court in London on 1 May 2019Image copyright AFP
Image caption Assange was arrested last month after spending seven years inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London

The US justice department has filed 17 new charges against Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, who is facing extradition from the UK.

The latest charges accuse him of receiving and unlawfully publishing the names of classified sources.

He was previously charged last month with one count of conspiring with ex-intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to gain access to the Pentagon network.

Assange is serving a jail sentence in the UK for jumping bail.

It was while he was on bail facing sexual assault allegations in Sweden that he sought asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in 2012. He has always denied the allegations against him.

Ecuador abruptly withdrew his asylum last month. The 47-year-old was arrested on 11 April and later jailed for 50 weeks for skipping bail.

What are the US charges?

The new indictment accuses Assange of violating the US espionage act by publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010.

It said Assange had “repeatedly encouraged sources with access to classified information to steal and provide it to Wikileaks to disclose”.

Once Manning started sharing such material, Assange, it said, encouraged her “to continue her theft of classified documents and agreed to help her crack a password hash to a military computer”.

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.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning has already served seven years in prison for her role in the leaks

Many of the charges would carry jail terms of five to 10 years.

Wikileaks hit back after the announcement, tweeting: “This is madness. It is the end of national security journalism and the first amendment.”

The first amendment guarantees free speech.

Assistant Attorney General John Demers said: “The department takes seriously the role of journalists in our democracy… but Julian Assange is no journalist.

“Indeed, no responsible act of journalism would purposely publish the names of individuals he or she knew to be confidential sources in war zones, exposing them to the gravest of dangers,” he added.

What’s happened to Manning?

Manning was found guilty in 2013 of charges including espionage for her role in leaking secret military files to Wikileaks, but her 35-year sentence was later commuted by then-President Barack Obama in 2017.

The leak was one of the largest breaches of classified material in US history.

She is currently back in jail after refusing to testify to a grand jury that is investigating Wikileaks.

Separately, Swedish authorities are also seeking the Australian-born Assange after reopening the sexual assault case against him.

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Media captionVideo footage shows Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorean embassy

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