Assange Allies Try To Frame Indictment As Blow To Press Freedom

Jack Taylor/Getty Images Europe

In the hours since a wild-haired Julian Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, his allies have sought to cast the WikiLeaks founder as a falsely-accused free press champion.

“This sets a dangerous precedent for all media organizations and journalists in Europe and elsewhere around the world,” Assange attorney Jennifer Robinson said at a Thursday press conference. “This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the United States.”

Assange was not charged with publishing classified information, but for allegedly helping former military intelligence staffer Chelsea Manning try to crack a Defense Department password.

Robinson told journalists in London on Thursday that Assange planned on fighting the extradition request. WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson added that Assange has been charged for “conspiracy to commit journalism.”

Assange’s U.S. legal team is adapting the same narrative as his London lawyers. Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S. counsel, told TPM in a statement that “the factual allegations against Mr. Assange boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source.”

“Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges,” Pollack added.

Assange faces a separate British charge for violating his bail conditions.

WikiLeaks has for years been predicting that Assange would be prosecuted due to his publishing activity. Prosecutors’ decision to instead charge him with conspiracy to commit computer hacking does not appear to have changed the organization’s messaging strategy.

Robinson, the London attorney, told journalists that she had just spoken with Assange in a police holding cell.

“He said, ‘I told you so,'” Robinson added.

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