WASHINGTON, April 11. /TASS/. The US Department of Justice holds WikiLeaks founder, Australian citizen Julian Assange, responsible for computer hacking conspiracy, for which he faces a five-year prison term, as follows from the Department of State’s news release.
"Julian P. Assange, 47, the founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested today in the United Kingdom pursuant to the U.S./UK Extradition Treaty, in connection with a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer," the news release runs.
Charges in absentia
The United States brought charges against Assange in absentia back on March 6, 2018, but they have remained under a publication ban up to now.
"According to court documents unsealed today, the charge relates to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States," the Department of Justice said.
The indictment alleges that in March 2010, Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Bradley Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, who would later undergo a sex reassignment surgery and change name to Chelsea.
"Between in or around January 2010 and May 2010 Manning downloaded four, nearly complete data bases from departments and agencies of the United States. These databases contained approximately 90,000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related significant activities reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs and 250,000 US Department of State cables. Many of these records were classified… Manning provided the records to agents of WikiLeaks so that WikiLeaks could publicly disclose them on its website. WikiLeaks publicly released the vast majority of the classified records on its website in 2010 and 2011," the indictment runs.
If extradited, the WikiLeaks founder will stand trail in the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia, which as a rule hears national security-related cases.
If found guilty, Assange may get a maximum prison term of five years, the Department of Justice said.
Assange was arrested by the British police at Ecuador’s embassy in London on Thursday on the basis of an arrest warrant issued on June 29, 2012 for failing to appear in court. Upon arrival at the police station he was also arrested in connection with the US extradition request.
In 2012, Assange asked Ecuador’s embassy in London for asylum to escape extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted in connection with sexual harassment and rape charges. The WikiLeaks founder’s main concern was Sweden might deport him to the United States, where he might be sentenced to a long prison term for the publication of classified US Department of State documents. Assange dismisses the charges against him as politically motivated.
In March 2018, the Ecuadoran authorities denied Assange access to the Internet and telephone, because he continued to make political statements. In January 2019, Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Jose Valencia said it would be better for Assange to leave his country’s embassy in London.