A sealed indictment against whistleblower WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange was obtained by US prosecutors, according to a federal court document seen on Thursday, a report by Reuters stated. The prosecutors have said that the indictment was filed by mistake.
Since 2012, Assange had been living in Ecuador ‘s embassy in London after Swedish prosecutors filed rape charges against him. The prosecutors have dropped the charges but Assange faces arrest by British authorities for fleeing justice in the Swedish case.
He fears UK authorities will then allow his extradition to the United States where he is wanted for publication by WikiLeaks of classified information in 2010.
In the document, a judge is asked to seal documents in a criminal case unrelated to Assange. It was originally filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia in August.
Citing sources, Reuters stated that the initially sealed document had been later unsealed ‘for reasons unclear at the moment’.
Taking to Twitter, WikiLeaks’ official page said it was an “apparent cut-and-paste error.”
“Did the US Department of Justice just accidentally reveal that it has charged WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange, in a secret charges request it filed in another case at the Eastern District of Virginia, with a cut-and-paste error?,” the Wikileaks tweeted sharing a screenshot of the purported document.
Did the US Department of Justice just accidentally reveal that it has charged WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange, in a secret charges request it filed in another case at the Eastern District of Virginia, with a cut-and-paste error? https://t.co/XCpean1yof pic.twitter.com/dZ6JjAFGlk
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 16, 2018
The indictment does not state clearly what charges Assange faces. Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the prosecutors’ office which had filed the document that was unsealed, was quoted by Reuters as having said, “The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing.”
The prosecutors had planned to keep the charges confidential until Assange was arrested, as per the documents which adds that the act was essential to ensure he did not evade or avoid arrest and extradition in the case.
Any procedure “short of sealing will not adequately protect the needs of law enforcement at this time because, 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,” the document reads.
It adds, “The complaint, supporting affidavit, and arrest warrant, as well as this motion and the proposed order, 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.”
WikiLeaks gained international attention for publishing a number of high profile leaks, including evidence of alleged US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables sent from US embassies.