Assange lawyers hit back at reports of charges

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Lawyers for Julian Assange have hit back at revelations the US Justice Department is preparing charges against the WikiLeaks founder.

Reports in the US said Mr Assange was named by mistake in a US court document, leading to suggestions he may have been charged in secret.

Justice officials said the filing was made in error.

The Australian has been living inside Ecuador’s embassy in London for over six years, believing he will be extradited to the US if he leaves.

He has long maintained the US authorities have a sealed indictment for his arrest.

Barry J Pollack, US attorney for Mr Assange, said: “The notion that federal criminal charges could be brought based on the publication of truthful information is an incredibly dangerous precedent to set.”

Jennifer Robinson, Mr Assange’s lawyer in the UK, added: “The US indictment of Assange is a grave violation of press freedoms.

“The Trump administration is seeking to extend US law worldwide, claiming that it is a criminal offence for a publisher in Europe to reveal evidence of US government abuses.

“How long until China, Russia or Saudi Arabia follow suit, citing the US example?”

WikiLeaks sources believe it is the first concrete evidence of US plans to extradite Julian Assange from the UK.

The court document reads: “The United States has considered alternatives less drastic than sealing, including, for example, the possibility of redactions, and has determined that none would suffice to protect this investigation.

“Another procedure short of sealing will not adequately protect the needs of law enforcement at this time because, 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 complaint, supporting affidavit, and arrest warrant as well as this motion and proposed order, would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.”

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