Assange 'has been charged,' inadvertent court filing shows

Assange 'has been charged,' inadvertent court filing shows

Mr Assange fled to Ecuador's London embassy in 2012 to escape extradition to Sweden on since-dropped sexual assault charges and has stayed there over fears he could be extradited to the USA if he leaves.

American prosecutors obtained a sealed indictment against Mr Assange, whose website published thousands of classified United States government documents, a USA federal court document showed on Thursday.

Any arrest could have an impact on the investigation in the USA into any ties between Russian Federation and the 2016 presidential campaign.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating whether Trump campaign associates had advance knowledge of Democratic emails that were published by WikiLeaks in the weeks before the 2016 election and that USA authorities have said were hacked by Russian Federation.

The DOJ could choose to prosecute Assange in connection with Chelsea Manning's disclosure of some 750,000 military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks back in 2010.

The document, which prosecutors say was filed by mistake, asks a judge to seal documents in a criminal case unrelated to Mr Assange, and carries markings indicating it was originally filed in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia in August.

"That was not the intended name for this filing", he said.

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U.S. officials have previously acknowledged that federal prosecutors based in Alexandria have been conducting a lengthy criminal investigation into WikiLeaks and its founder, Reuters reports.

Assange's lawyer Barry Pollack, however, told the WSJ that he had "heard nothing from authorities suggesting that a criminal case against Mr. Assange is imminent".

The passages containing Assange's name appear in a sex trafficking case that involves national security concerns. If so, charges against the WikiLeaks editor could be potentially linked to the notorious probe by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is struggling to find proof of Russia's "interference" in the 2016 U.S. election. The possibility of charging the whistleblower with violating the Espionage Act has come up in discussions, WSJ notes.

The defendant in the case, Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, is charged with coercion and enticement of a minor.

On Thursday evening, Seamus Hughes, the deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University who is known for scrubbing court filings, joked about the apparent error on Twitter - which first brought it to the attention of reporters.

Pollack said he did not know if Assange has been charged.

US officials had no comment on the disclosure in the document about a sealed indictment of Assange.

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