Washington (dpa) - The US judiciary has significantly tightened the charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and added 17 new points.
Assange would face a maximum sentence of up to 175 years imprisonment in the event of extradition to the United States and a conviction on all 18 charges today, the Justice Department said in Washington on Thursday (local time). After the new indictment, which replaces the previous one, the 47-year-old is now charged with the publication of secret documents under the US espionage law.
Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks' imprisonment in the UK for violating bail conditions. The US, who accuse him of conspiring with American whistleblower Chelsea Manning, has formally requested extradition. However, the Swedish Public Prosecutor's Office has also sought an arrest warrant against Assange on suspicion of rape.
Born in Australia, he fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 to escape extradition to Sweden. Assange always claimed that the allegations in Sweden were only an excuse to arrest him and extradite him to the United States. On April 11, Assange was finally arrested after the government in Quito revoked the embassy asylum. Manning sent hundreds of thousands of secret military documents to the Wikileaks revelation platform in 2010.
In the old indictment, the US authorities accused Assange of conspiring with Manning to crack a password on a government computer network. In 2010, Manning had publicly reported serious misconduct by US military personnel, including in Iraq and Afghanistan via Wikileaks. One video showed, among other things, how a US helicopter crew in Iraq killed civilians. The video was the first major revelation hit by Wikileaks.
In the new indictment Assange is accused, inter alia, in collaboration with Manning unlawful secret documents for national defense and have published. With his actions Assange had suffered serious damage to US national security, it said. He has published the names of people who provided information to US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as US diplomats around the world. He exposed these people to great danger.
Manning - who lived as a man before her gender-adjusting surgery and was given his first name Bradley - had worked as a computer expert for the US armed forces during the Iraq war, and forwarded large volumes of classified material to Wikileaks. She had been remanded in custody in 2010.
In 2013 Manning was sentenced to 35 years in a military court case. Manning was released in 2017 after US President Barack Obama ordered his early release. Since last week, however, Manning is again in Beugehaft because she refuses to testify about Assange.
The US Department of Justice said Thursday that Assange faces a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment in each of the 17 new charges. The charge of intrusion into a computer network could be punished with up to five years in prison. The actual sentence is typically below the maximum penalty. Assange is considered innocent until convicted.