US Denies Charges Against Assange Are Politically Motivated

Attorneys for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in late February petitioned the UK High Court to grant their client another appeal to stop his extradition to the United States to faces charges of espionage, Reuters reported.

The US Justice Department indicted Assange in 2019 on 17 counts of espionage and one count of computer misuse over Wikileaks publishing a trove of classified US documents starting in late 2009.

The Justice Department alleged that Assange had conspired with former Army intelligence officer Bradley (AKA Chelsea) Manning to steal military documents and diplomatic cables that he later published on Wikileaks’ website. The documents published included the unredacted names of confidential human sources who worked with the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the first day of the two-day hearing before High Court judges Jeremy Johnson and Victoria Sharp, Assange’s lawyers alleged that the charges against Assange were politically motivated. They argued that Assange was targeted by the Trump Justice Department for exposing “state-level crimes” and alleged that then-President Trump had requested “detailed options” for killing Assange.

During the second day of the hearing, Clair Dobbin, the attorney representing the Justice Department, told the High Court that while Assange’s prosecution “might be unprecedented,” it was “based on the rule of law and evidence.”

Dobbin said Assange “indiscriminately and knowingly” published the names of civilians who “acted as sources of information to the US.” She said it was the facts of the case and not Assange’s political opinions that distinguished him.

She asserted that Assange’s actions in leaking the classified documents placed these sources, many of whom lived under oppressive regimes, at “grave and imminent risk.”

According to the Associated Press, the judges hearing the case said they would take some time to review the arguments presented in the hearing before delivering their verdict.

If the judges rule against Assange, his final option to avoid extradition would be to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. However, because the UK already ordered his extradition, Assange would likely already be in US custody before such a hearing could take place.