WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange put lives of informants in ‘immediate’ danger, say prosecutors


Assange, 48, was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in April last year, on a US extradition warrant. He had lived at the embassy since claiming asylum there in 2012.

He faces 18 charges in the US for his alleged role in encouraging, receiving and publishing classified documents linked to national defense. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 175 years in jail.

At Woolwich Crown Court on Monday, US counsel James Lewis said that by publishing the unredacted cables, Assange had put the lives of sources and informants in “immediate” danger, and damaged the capabilities of US forces carrying out operations abroad.

“Reporting or journalism is not a license for criminality,” Lewis said, later adding that Assange is not a journalist, and so cannot use journalism as an excuse for hacking.

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, hold placards calling for his freedom outside Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London on February 24, 2020, ahead of the opening of the full hearing into a US request for Assange's extradition.

Lewis said Assange had previously conceded that the publication of names was regrettable. But the lawyer said that “what is alleged is far more than regrettable — it’s criminal.”

Lewis told the court that the charges against Assange were not linked to his publication of evidence of any war crimes, but instead related to “publishing specific classified documents that contained unredacted names of innocent people who risked their safety and freedom to aid United States and its allies.”

John Shipton, the father of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks to media outside at Belmarsh prison prior to his son's extradition hearing on February 24, 2020 in London, England.

Assange’s defense lawyers are expected to outline their case against extradition on Tuesday.

Wearing a gray suit, a white shirt and a gray sweater, on Monday the WikiLeaks founder spoke to confirm his name and date of birth.

Assange’s father, John Shipton, was joined by WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson in the public gallery.

Chants of “no extradition” from the crowd of Assange supporters gathered outside could be clearly heard inside the courtroom.

During Monday’s proceedings, judge Vanessa Baraitser asked counsel to pass a message to the protesters outside, warning them they risked harming the case because journalists — especially those who didn’t make it into the courtroom — were struggling to hear the proceedings.

“I’m having difficulty concentrating, this noise is not helpful either,” Assange said. “I’m very appreciative of the public support and understand they must be disgusted by these proceedings,” he added.

The hearing is expected to last several weeks.

Last week, a lawyer for Assange said that a former US congressman had offered him a pardon on behalf of US President Donald Trump, in exchange for denying Russian involvement in the Democratic National Committee email leak. The White House and the congressman have strongly denied Trump’s involvement in the matter.
Trump in 2016: 'I love WikiLeaks,' Trump now: 'I know nothing about WikiLeaks'

Lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told the court during a case management hearing that a witness statement application claimed the then-California representative Dana Rohrabacher had been to visit Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on the instruction of the “President.”

According to the statement described by Fitzgerald, Rohrabacher’s mission was to offer Assange a US pardon, if he would “play ball” by saying the Russians had nothing to do with the leak — an assertion Assange had previously made.

Rohrabacher has previously said the visit was “my own fact finding mission,” and claimed he had never spoken to Trump about Assange. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham dismissed Fitzgerald’s claim as “a total lie.”

Assange, an Australian citizen, has been detained at London’s high-security Belmarsh prison since his arrest.

CNN’s Maegan Vazquez, Livvy Doherty, Claudia Rebaza and Angela Dewan contributed to this report.

Source : Nbcnewyork