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'Secret' grand jury assembled for WikiLeaks trial

Julian Assange’s lawyer tells al-Jazeera that a grand jury in Virginia is considering criminal charges for WikiLeaks.

Image: AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini

A GRAND JURY is meeting in secret to consider bringing criminal charges against Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks website, a lawyer for Assange has claimed.

In an interview for Al-Jazeera, lawyer Mark Stephens told Sir David Frost that Swedish authorities said a jury had been assembled in secret in Alexandria, Virginia, and that the jury was contemplating crimes it felt that Assange and WikiLeaks had breached.

“I think that the Americans are much more interested in terms of the WikiLeaks aspect of this,” CNN quotes Stephens as saying, adding that he believed the Swedish authorities – currently pursuing Assange in relation to an outstanding rape charge – would “defer their interest in him to the Americans” if he was to be extradited.

In that regard, the Swedish case against Assange was a “holding charge” and was a ploy to allow the United States “get their mitts on him”. Assange was unable to contest any charges until he had been informed of their precise nature, and could not defend himself until he was given such clarification.
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Another of Assange’s lawyers, Jennifer Robinson, told ABC News that she also believed the US was preparing to press charges against Assange, though she insisted that Assange – as the publisher of WikiLeaks – was entitled to protection under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech.

If the US tried to pursue a prosecution under espionage charges, it would also be forced to prosecute the New York Times for publishing the leaked Cablegate documents currently being published by WikiLeaks.

The Inquirer notes that the US failed in attempts to bring similar charges against the newspaper in the 1970s when it published leaked documents from the Pentagon.

Assange remains in a UK jail until next Tuesday, after he had presented himself to a London police station last week for questioning and was arrested. He was denied bail because, the judge said, his ‘nomadic lifestyle’ meant his future whereabouts could not be reasonably predicted.

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Gavan Reilly

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