Advertisement

Assange team sees no sign of resolving US charges after reported plea deal talks

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange protest in Vienna

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A lawyer for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said on Wednesday his legal team saw no indication of resolution to U.S. charges against him, following the publication of a Wall Street Journal report on exploration of a guilty plea.

The Journal reported that the U.S. Justice Department is considering whether to allow Assange to plead guilty to a reduced charge of mishandling classified information. The newspaper cited people familiar with the matter.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment on the report.

"It is inappropriate for Mr. Assange's lawyers to comment while his case is before the UK High Court other than to say we have been given no indication that the Department of Justice intends to resolve the case and the United States is continuing with as much determination as ever to seek his extradition on all 18 charges, exposing him to 175 years in prison," Assange's lawyer, Barry Pollack, said in an emailed statement.

The WSJ said that in recent months officials at the Justice Department and Assange's legal team have had preliminary discussions about a plea deal but that the discussions "remain in flux and the talks could fizzle."

Assange is battling extradition from Britain to the U.S., where he is wanted on criminal charges over the release of confidential U.S. military records and diplomatic cables in 2010. Washington says the release of the documents had put lives in danger.

Assange's supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimized because he exposed U.S. wrongdoing, including in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. If extradited, Assange faces a sentence of up to 175 years in a maximum security prison.

Multiple rights groups, leading media organizations and the leaders of countries like Mexico, Brazil and Australia have urged the charges against Assange, who is an Australian citizen, be dropped.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington, Editing by William Maclean)