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Wikileaks founder may face espionage charges in the U.S.

RIA Novosti

01:03 11/12/2010

WASHINGTON, December 11 (RIA Novosti) - The United States could soon press espionage charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for authorizing the disclosure of secret U.S. diplomatic and military reports, his lawyer said.

"Our position of course is that we don't believe it applies to Mr. Assange and that in any event he is entitled to First Amendment protection as publisher of WikiLeaks," Assange's American lawyer, Jennifer Robinson told ABC News on Friday.

"Any prosecution under the Espionage Act would in my view be unconstitutional and puts at risk all media organizations in the U.S.," Robinson said.

The U.S. Justice Department has so far declined to comment on possible actions against Assange, who is an Australian citizen.

However, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday that prosecutors were looking beyond the espionage law for possible indictment.

Assange was arrested in London on December 7. His extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted on sex assault charges, is pending.

Assange's lawyers fear that following their client's extradition to Sweden he could be then extradited to the United States where he could face death penalty for violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.

World leaders and diplomats have downplayed the impact of the leak of more than 250,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic cables by the WikiLeaks site, but many have questioned the benefit of the project, alleging that some of the leaks could "threaten lives."

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