Julian Assange’s lawyers are digging in for a furious, last-ditch effort to block his extradition to the U.S., following his dramatic arrest Thursday morning. The WikiLeaks founder was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had been living since 2012.
Assange is now facing up to five years in American prison for allegedly conspiring to hack into a classified Pentagon computer system in 2010. A 2018 indictment, unsealed by the Department of Justice on Thursday, charges him with a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and alleges that he tried to help former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning gain access to the government computer system in March 2010.
Given Assange’s contentious history with Washington, the initial indictment may be an attempt to bring Assange to the U.S. before targeting him with additional charges, former federal prosecutors told VICE News. His longstanding confrontation with the U.S. government now appears destined to play out in courtrooms in London and Alexandria, Virginia.
“Once the Justice Department gets him over here, they have a lot more leverage over Mr. Assange — and the tables are turned,” said Renato Mariotti, a former U.S. prosecutor based in Chicago. “You don’t need to be a legal analyst to see why the Justice Department would probably like to charge him with all sorts of things.”
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