Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Javid urged to block extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange over new charges in US

The United States has extended the charges made against Julian Assange. Credit: PA

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has been urged by WikiLeaks to block Julian Assange's extradition to the US over fresh espionage charges in the name of press freedom.

The organisation said Mr Javid was under "enormous pressure to protect the rights of the free press in the UK and elsewhere" after its founder was hit with a raft of new charges by the US Department of Justice.

The 47-year-old, who is currently jailed in Britain, faces 18 counts that relate to his "alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States".

Julian Assange is accused of 'unlawfully obtaining and disclosing' classified documents. Credit: PA

On Thursday, a grand jury indictment was unsealed to reveal allegations against Assange, who is accused of working with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in "unlawfully obtaining and disclosing" hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

The Justice Department said that by publishing unredacted versions of the leaked files, Assange put "named human sources at a grave and imminent risk".

The department alleges the pair conspired "with reason to believe that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States or the advantage of a foreign nation".

Former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning is accused of working with Assange. Credit: AP

The Justice Department said that by publishing unredacted versions of the leaked files, Assange put "named human sources at a grave and imminent risk".

The department alleges the pair conspired "with reason to believe that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States or the advantage of a foreign nation".

According to WikiLeaks, the charges, 17 of which are under the First World War-era Espionage Act, carry 175 years in prison if convicted.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson branded the new charges "the evil of lawlessness in its purest form", while the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the move was "an extraordinary escalation of the Trump administration's attacks on journalism".

Assange was dramatically dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge, central London, last month, some seven years after he sought political asylum after the documents were published.

He was then jailed for 50 weeks for a bail breach and is fighting against extradition to the US.

Following his arrest Mr Javid told the Commons that it would be for the courts to determine whether there was any legal reason for Mr Assange to avoid extradition.

Julian Assange was holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy for nearly seven years. Credit: PA

In a statement on Friday, WikiLeaks said: "The final decision on Assange's extradition rests with the UK Home Secretary, who is now under enormous pressure to protect the rights of the free press in the UK and elsewhere.

"Press rights advocates have unanimously argued that Assange's prosecution under the Espionage Act is incompatible with basic democratic principles.

"This is the gravest attack on press freedom of the century."

Only one charge, of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, had previously been revealed against Assange.

His lawyer, Barry J Pollack, said the initial charge had been a "fig leaf".

"These unprecedented charges demonstrate the gravity of the threat the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange poses to all journalists in their endeavour to inform the public about actions that have been taken by the US government."

According to the US Justice Department, Manning handed over databases containing roughly 90,000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports and 400,000 Iraq war-related significant activities reports, the Justice Department said.

There were also 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs and 250,000 US Department of State cables, it added.