UPDATE: Julian Assange has been indicted on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act, the Justice Department revealed on Thursday. “Assange, WikiLeaks affiliates and [Chelsea] Manning shared the common objective to subvert lawful restrictions on classified information and to publicly disseminate it,” the indictment said.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London Thursday partly on a U.S. extradition warrant after Ecuador withdrew the asylum it had granted him in 2012, The New York Times reports.
Last November, a prosecutor accidentally revealed that Assange had been indicted in relation to the 2010 publication of classified documents and videos about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as confidential messages between diplomats. Per the Justice Department, Assange faces federal hacking charges and is accused of helping Chelsea Manning crack a password stored on Department of Defense computers.
— Barnaby Nerberka (@barnabynerberka) April 11, 2019
In a statement, Assange’s lawyer Barry J. Pollack said the indictment was part of “an unprecedented effort by the United States seeking to extradite a foreign journalist to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information.”
But the Justice Department indictment isn’t the only legal trouble Assange faces: His arrest Thursday was partly on a warrant issued by British authorities in 2012 accusing Assange of jumping bail and failing to surrender to the court. Assange could also face renewed legal challenges in Sweden, where two women have accused him of sexual assault. It was these allegations that prompted Assange to seek asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012. He has denied the accusations, and though Sweden dropped its arrest warrant in 2017, prosecutors said the case has not been closed and could still be reopened.
Assange’s possible extradition to the United States could also have implications for investigations into Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Assange is suspected of helping Russia by releasing material stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic Party through WikiLeaks. Special counsel Robert Mueller previously filed indictments suggesting Assange could have information about intersecting efforts of the Trump campaign and Russia to damage Clinton.