WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was behind a massive dump of classified US documents in 2010, has been charged in the United States, WikiLeaks said Thursday.
Prosecutors revealed the existence of the sealed indictment inadvertently in a court filing in an unrelated case, WikiLeaks said.
The exact nature of the charges against Assange was not immediately known.
“SCOOP: US Department of Justice ‘accidentally’ reveals existence of sealed charges (or a draft for them) against WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange in apparent cut-and-paste error in an unrelated case also at the Eastern District of Virginia,” Wikileaks wrote on Twitter.
The still unsealed charges against Assange were disclosed by Assistant US Attorney Kellen Dwyer as she made a filing in the unrelated case and urged a judge to keep that filing sealed.
Dwyer wrote, “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged,” according to The Washington Post.
Later, Dwyer wrote the charges would “need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”
A lawyer for Assange told the Guardian the possible charges were a “dangerous path for a democracy to take”
“The news that criminal charges have apparently been filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed,” Pollack wrote in an email to the newspaper.
US media were alerted late Thursday to the inadvertent disclosure thanks to a tweet from Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. He is known to follow court filings closely.
Assange has always feared extradition to the US where he believes he would face trial over the leak of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010, that brought WikiLeaks to prominence.
He has sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since seeking asylum in 2012.
WikiLeaks is also connected to Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, with the investigation trying to determine whether associates of US President Donald Trump had advance knowledge of the hackers’ plans to leak materials, including emails belonging to former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, who has also said he expects to be indicted, has denied being a conduit for WikiLeaks, which published thousands of emails stolen from Podesta in the weeks before the election.
A spokesman for the Justice Department would not confirm to the Guardian newspaper whether Assange has been charged.
“The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing,” Joshua Stueve wrote.