Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange was arrested by local police at the Ecuadorian embassy in London early Thursday morning shortly after Ecuador revoked his asylum status, and was subsequently charged in an unsealed indictment by the United States Attorney in Alexandria, Virginia with where he will likely head if extradited.
By: Harry Cherry
The indictment released by the U.S. Attorney’s office only charges Mr. Assange with one criminal count, specifically, conspiring with Chelsea Manning to hack into a government computer system, in an attempt to obtain and release classified documents. Mr. Assange faces up to five years in federal prison as a result of the charge against him.
CNN reported on Thursday that a Justice Department official said that Mr. Assange will likely face more criminal charges at a later date. Federal prosecutors allegedly changed their view that Mr. Assange’s is a journalist entitled to first amendment protections following his organization’s 2017 publication of CIA hacking tools.
“I’ve just been with Mr. Assange in the police cell, he wants to thank all of his supporters for the ongoing support,” Jennifer Robinson, one of Mr. Assange’s attorneys, told reporters following his initial court appearance on Thursday.
Rafael Correa, the former president of Ecuador, called President Moreno’s decision to revoke Mr. Assange’s asylum “incredible.”
“It’s incredible. We cannot imagine something like this. It’s against international law; it’s against the institution of asylum; it’s against the Ecuadorian constitution, especially because since last year, Julian Assange has had Ecuadorian citizenship,” Mr. Correa told CNN reporter Richard Quest in an interview on Thursday.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee said Thursday that Mr. Assange deserves whatever comes to him.
“He’s not an American citizen so he can’t be a traitor but I have absolutely no use for Julian Assange,” Mr. Graham said on Thursday. “Whatever comes his way he deserves.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., also weighed in on Mr. Assange’s arrest on Thursday.
“We’re going to extradite him,” Mr. Manchin said. “It will be really good to get him back on United States soil. So now he’s our property and we can get the facts and truth from him.”
“I think it’s very good for us to finally get him on US soil so we can investigate,” Mr. Manchin added. “We can basically cross-examine; we can find out the facts that only he knows and his connections and how he basically distributed his information.”
Despite repeated touting Wikileaks disclosure of emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump insisted on Thursday that he knows “nothing about Wikileaks.”
“I know nothing about WikiLeaks,” Mr. Trump told reporters Thursday in the Oval Office. “It’s not my thing, and I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange. I’ve been seeing what’s happened with Assange.”
“I know nothing really about him,” Mr. Trump added, saying “that’s not my deal in life.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Trump frequently praised Wikileaks and once said, “I love Wikileaks.”
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