Julian Assange is accused of releasing sensitive information that put operatives' lives in danger, U.S. prosecutors said. File Photo courtesy of EPA-EFE
May 23 (UPI) -- A U.S. grand jury indicted WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange on 17 new charges of violating the Espionage Act, U.S. prosecutors announced Thursday.
The superseding indictment accuses Assange of working with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to obtain and publicly release hundreds of thousands of pages of classified information, including the names of U.S. operatives. The release of information "put innocent people in grave danger simply because they provided information to the United States," the indictment said.
Prosecutors said Assange encouraged sources to access classified information and share it with him for dissemination on WikiLeaks. They said this is how Manning began working with Assange, reaching out to him to pass on documents pertaining to the Guantanamo Bay prison, the State Department and U.S. war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Assange, who was arrested in April after living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, was charged in March 2018 on a count of conspiring to commit unlawful computer intrusion, which carries a maximum five years in prison. He now faces 18 counts, and each violation of the Espionage Act carries a maximum 10-year sentence.
Earlier this month, Assange told a British court he plans to fight his extradition to the United States to face the computer hacking charges.
"I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many people," he told a judge while speaking via video link from London's Belmarsh Prison.
Manning, who served seven years in prison for disclosing documents to WikiLeaks, was ordered to jail last week after refusing to testify before a grand jury, allegedly in connection with the Assange case.