An apparent cut-paste error confirms a US indictment against the Wikileaks founder. Plus, patriotic cinema in Russia.
Last week, in court papers filed in the US, in a case completely unrelated to Julian Assange, there was a paragraph confirming that a secret indictment has been filed against the WikiLeaks founder. A supposed clerical error confirmed something that Assange had always feared, but that the US Department of Justice never admitted: it wants him in jail.
It’s been more than six years since Assange was granted asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
An investigation into sexual assault-related allegations made by two women in Sweden has long since been dropped. However, British police say Assange will be arrested the moment he steps out of the embassy for breach of bail.
Less than a decade ago, Assange had media outlets eating out of his hand and governments with secrets to hide on high alert. Now, he’s at the mercy of an Ecuadorian government that’s running out of patience and he may be running out of time.
Assange, who has taken cover in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been granted asylum, has speculated publicly for years that the Justice Department had brought secret criminal charges against him for revealing highly sensitive government information on his website.
That hypothesis appeared closer to reality after prosecutors, in an errant court filing in an unrelated case, inadvertently revealed the existence of sealed charges.
The filing, discovered last week, said the charges and arrest warrant ‘would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.’
The charges came to light in an unrelated court filing from a federal prosecutor in Virginia, who was attempting to keep sealed a separate case involving a man accused of coercing a minor for sex.
The three-page filing contained two references to Assange, including one sentence that said ‘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.’
It was not immediately clear why Assange’s name was included in the document. Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the Justice Department’s Eastern District of Virginia said, ‘The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing.’
The filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, who posted it on Twitter hours after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange.
The case at issue concerns a defendant named Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, a 29-year-old teacher who has since been indicted on charges of enticing a 15-year-old girl to commit sex acts and to produce child pornography. There doesn’t appear to be any connection between Assange and Kokayi.
The since-unsealed document, a motion filed in late August, mentions Assange in two boilerplate sections, suggesting a copy-and-paste error or that his name was inadvertently left in a template used for the common filings.
The filing suggests prosecutors have reason to believe they will be able to arrest and extradite Assange.
Ecuadorian officials say they have cut off his high-speed internet access and will restore it only if he agrees to stop interfering in the affairs of Ecuador’s partners, such as the U.S. and Spain. He is allowed to use the embassy’s WiFi, though it is unclear if he doing so. Officials have also imposed a series of other restrictions on Assange’s activities and visitors, and ordered him to clean after his cat.
Carlos Poveda, Assange’s lawyer in Ecuador, said he suspects Ecuador has been maneuvering to kick Assange out of the embassy through the stricter new living requirements it recently imposed.
He said possible U.S. charges, however, are proof his client remains under threat, and he called on Ecuador’s government to uphold Assange’s asylum protections. He said Ecuador would be responsible if anything happened to Assange.
With shrinking options – an Ecuadorian lawsuit seeking to reverse the restrictions was recently turned down – WikiLeaks announced in September that former spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic journalist who has long served as one of Assange’s lieutenants, would take over as editor-in-chief.
In a brief interview in Reykjavik, Iceland, Hrafnsson called the U.S. news ‘a very black day for journalism.’