Assange's Arrest As Chilling Consequences For Investigative Journalism, Says CPJ

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

However, critics argue the charge is part of a ploy by the Trump administration to punish Assange for publishing classified information about the USA wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-provided by Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who remains jailed for refusing to testify before a grand jury-and that extraditing Assange "would set a risky precedent for journalists everywhere".

Assange was finally questioned for two days in November 2016, after a change in tactics from Swedish authorities who had previously argued that he had to travel to Sweden to be interviewed.

Relations between Assange and Ecuador deteriorated further on Wednesday when WikiLeaks called a press conference and claimed the group had discovered a spying operation against Assange from within the embassy.

Assange is expected to fight extradition to the United States, a process that could stretch out for years.

Assuming he is eventually brought to the US, Assange would face charges in the Eastern District of Virginia, just outside Washington. Manning was jailed last month after she refused to testify before a grand jury in Virginia, suggesting that prosecutors' work related to Assange is not done.

Assange now faces extradition to the United States, where he has been charged with hacking-related offenses.

Those charges do not carry the death penalty, however. Assange denies the allegation.

On its face, the charges have nothing to do with Mueller's probe.

Looking nothing like the sleek, stylish, leather-jacket wearing provocateur we've become used to, (as he appeared in 2017 in his famous balcony speech), Assange's scraggly beard and pasty and bedraggled appearance served as a dead giveaway to the effect of years of living in isolation has had on him.

But Trump repeatedly praised the organization on the campaign trail as WikiLeaks released troves of emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee that we later learned were hacked. The Wikileaks founder continued his operation with little interruption throughout his stay there until Correa's vice president, Lenin Moreno, took power in 2017 shortly after the 2016 US presidential election, during which Wikileaks published damaging emails from the DNC showing that the organization colluded with the media to rig the primary election against Bernie Sanders to secure Hillary Clinton's presidential nomination. The charge relates to Assange's interactions with Chelsea Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst who was convicted under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks and spent seven years in prison.

"Maybe it will shed light on the plot to create an investigation of President Trump based on a false charge of conspiracy with the Russians to affect the 2016 elections".

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