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Assange lawyer says US spying indictment imminent

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Update: Assange attorney says he’s not been allowed to meet with his client

London lawyer, Mark Stephens, told Voice of Russia, the Russian government’s international radio broadcasting service, that British officials will not allow him to meet with Julian Assange until the day before a Dec. 14 court hearing.

“The one thing that is slightly frustrating is that we have another court hearing on December 14 and I’ve not been permitted a legal visit until December 13, which, of course, gives me less than 24 hours to prepare his case,” Stephens said.

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Second update: Glenn Greenwald notes that if the Department of Justice is successful in prosecuting Assange, it will be the first time a non-government employee is convicted under the Espionage Act.

Original report follows…

Julian Assange’s problems may just be beginning.

Lawyers for the founder of WikiLeaks, the secrets website publishing more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables, told ABC News that the US could be preparing a spying indictment against their client.

“Our position of course is that we don’t believe it applies to Mr. Assange and that in any event he’s entitled to First Amendment protection as publisher of Wikileaks and any prosecution under the espionage act would in my view be unconstitutional and puts at risk all media organizations in the US,” attorney Jennifer Robinson said.

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Robinson believes the US indictment will happen soon.

Earlier this week, US Attorney General Eric Holder authorized a criminal investigation into Assange.

“The lives of people who work for the American people has been put at risk; the American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that are, I believe, arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way. We are doing everything that we can,” Holder said at a news conference.

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“We have a very serious, active, ongoing investigation that is criminal in nature. I authorized just last week a number of things to be done so that we can hopefully get to the bottom of this and hold people accountable, as they — as they should be,” he said.

Assange is already in custody in London over other allegations of sex crimes. He was arrested Tuesday after British authorities received an arrest warrant from Sweden.

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Assange’s two accuser went to the police together because they wanted to have him tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) after both had unprotected sex, several people formerly connected to Assange told Reuters.

One accuser, Anna Ardin, has reportedly stopped cooperating with police and has fled to Palestinian territories.

The 39-year-old former hacker is in solitary confinement in London with no access to a computer and limited access to a phone.

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“This means he is under significant surveillance but also means he has more restrictive conditions than other prisoners,” Robinson said. “Considering the circumstances he was incredibly positive and upbeat.”

Assange has vowed to fight extradition to Sweden. He intends “to vindicate himself and clear his good name,” attorney Mark Stephens said.

Following his’s arrest, “hactivists” have taken down websites of organizations acting against WikiLeaks. Distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks were launched against MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and the Swedish prosecutor’s office by the hacker group “Anonymous.”

WikiLeaks has denied any connection to the cyberattacks.

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This video is from ABC’s Good Morning America, broadcast Dec. 10, 2010.


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