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US documents suggest charges filed against WikiLeaks founder Assange

Julian Assange, from Wikileaks, at the SKUP conference for investigative journalism, Norway, March 2010 (Espen Moe/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. court documents suggest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been criminally charged by prosecutors in a case that could be related to the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the U.S. elections.

The Washington Post and other news outlets reported on November 16 that the disclosure was included as part of a court filing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, in a case unrelated to Assange.

The paper reported that Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen Dwyer wrote in the filing that “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.”

Dwyer also wrote that the charges would “need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested,” the Post said.

Prosecutors acknowledged the filing had been “made in error” but did not comment further on Assange, potential charges, or whether they had been filed.

The Post cited people familiar with the matter as confirming that Assange had been charged, although other news agencies were not able to immediately confirm the action. The nature of the potential charges was not immediately clear.

500,000 Military Files

WikiLeaks itself wrote on Twitter that U.S. prosecutors had charged Assange.

“SCOOP: US Department of Justice ‘accidentally’ reveals existence of sealed charges (or a draft for them) against WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange in apparent cut-and-paste error in an unrelated case also at the Eastern District of Virginia,” the tweet said.

Assange, a 47-year-old Australian, could face trial over the leaking of some 500,000 secret U.S. military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mueller is also investigating WikiLeaks for publishing tens of thousands of e-mails stolen from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Trump at the time routinely praised WikiLeaks after it released the hacked e-mails.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded the e-mails were taken by Russian government-linked hackers as part of efforts to help the campaign of Donald Trump. The Kremlin has denied any involvement.

In 2017, Mike Pompeo — then CIA director and now secretary of state — described WikiLeaks as a “hostile” intelligence service abetted by Russia, and Assange as a “fraud.”

Assange has been holed up in London’s Ecuadoran Embassy since 2012, when he skipped bail to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault and rape allegations made by two women in 2010.

He was initially welcomed as a guest of the embassy, but after a change in government, Ecuadoran authorities in the South American nation began to reduce his access to outsiders and cut his Internet access.

Swedish prosecutors dropped the case last year, but Assange was still subject to a British arrest warrant for violating the terms of bail in 2012.