WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged in the United States, the organization said, in a development that could have implications for Rober Mueller's probe into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
The indictment against Assange was inadvertently revealed when Assistant US Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer urged a federal judge to "keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged", according to The Washington Post.
Assange faces a variety of potential charges, including the Espionage Act, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier.
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.
United States intelligence agencies have alleged the emails were hacked by Russian spies and transferred to WikiLeaks.
Earlier on Thursday evening, the Wall Street Journal reported that the United States was making preparations to prosecute Assange and was confident of being able to detain him and make him stand trial.
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".
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Hours earlier, The Wall Street Journal reported that USA prosecutors are increasingly confident about indicting Assange and prosecuting him in US court.
"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". "Obviously, I have no idea if he has actually been charged or for what, but the notion that the federal criminal charges could be brought based on the publication of truthful information is an incredibly unsafe precedent to set". It was submitted to the federal court in the eastern district of Virginia, which handles many cases involving national security.
WikiLeaks said on Twitter that it was an apparent "cut and paste" mistake.
Facing extradition from Britain to Sweden to be questioned in a sexual molestation case, Assange six years ago took refuge in Ecuador's London embassy. Throughout that time, the US has refused to say whether there are any sealed charges against Assange.
But Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the prosecutors' office that filed the document that was unsealed, admitted the court filing was an "error". "That was not the intended name for this filing".
"Prosecuting someone for publishing truthful information would set a bad and unsafe precedent", Pollack said.