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US prosecutors press witnesses to testify against Julian Assange-WikiLeaks

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U.S. federal prosecutors have stepped up efforts to pressure witnesses to testify against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, WikiLeaks said on Wednesday, in connection with what it said were secret criminal charges filed by the Trump administration.

WikiLeaks did not mention any names in its public statement. But Assange’s lawyers identified some of those contacted in a document asking the human rights arm of the Organization of American States to demand that the charges be unsealed.

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Reuters obtained excerpts of the document filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and spoke to one of the persons named.

President Barack Obama’s administration extensively investigated Assange and WikiLeaks after it published hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables and secret documents detailing U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The administration ultimately decided not to prosecute, however, on the grounds the group’s work was too similar to journalistic activities protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

Late last year, a court filing by prosecutors in an unrelated case referred to a sealed American indictment of Assange. Prosecutors said the filing was made in error and declined to confirm whether any charges had been filed.

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Donald Trump praised WikiLeaks during his 2016 presidential campaign for publishing material about Hillary Clinton. Not long after Trump took office, however, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo, now Secretary of State, publicly called it a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

Assange, an Australian national, has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where authorities wanted to question him as part of a sexual assault investigation that was eventually dropped.

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A spokesman for the federal prosecutors’ office in Alexandria, Virginia, which has taken the lead for several years in investigations into WikiLeaks, did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

According to the document filed to the human rights commission, one of the people contacted by Alexandria prosecutors was Jacob Appelbaum, a Berlin-based U.S. computer expert and hacker.

Appelbaum told Reuters that while prosecutors offered him broad immunity from prosecution, he had no interest in cooperating or testifying before a grand jury.

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Another potential witness targeted by U.S. prosecutors was David House, a Massachusetts computer programmer, the document said. House was involved in setting up a group to support Chelsea Manning, a U.S. soldier who passed on military communications to WikiLeaks and was jailed by U.S. authorities.

House could not be reached. The American Civil Liberties Union which represented him in connection with the Manning case did not respond to requests for comment.

The Justice Department also contacted American activist and computer scientist, Jason Katz. Katz, who has lived in Iceland since 2011, did not respond to a request for comment sent to that country’s Pirate Party, of which he was a founding member.

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Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Sonya Hepinstall

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Anthony Scaramucci says Trump cabinet officials are preparing to turn on the president

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Former Trump administration official Anthony Scaramucci predicts that some current cabinet officials are ready to jump ship and denounce President Donald Trump.

Scaramucci, who has recently abandoned his support for the president, told CNN's Alisyn Camerota that some current administration officials will soon turn on Trump and work against his 2020 re-election.

"It's a little bit like a cycle," Scaramucci said. "I mean, if you can get the cycle started, some people that are fear-based due to the president's bullying or the nonsense on his Twitter feed or how he handles himself personally, they're intimidated by him."

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More evacuations as Canary Islands fire out of control

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A wildfire raged out of control on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria Monday, forcing more evacuations as flames in some parts rose so high even water-dropping planes were unable to operate, authorities said.

The fire, the third in 10 days in the mountainous centre of the holiday island popular for its breathtaking views, has forced the evacuation of several villages, which according to the census have a combined population of 8,000, a spokeswoman for emergency services said.

The exact number of evacuees was unclear. No fatalities have been reported.

So fierce is the fire in what is part of a UNESCO biosphere reserve that in some areas, it "is beyond our extinction capacities," Federico Grillo, head of emergency services in Gran Canaria, said late Sunday.

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Britain’s Prince Andrew ‘appalled’ by Epstein abuse claim

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Britain's Prince Andrew has said he was "appalled" by allegations of sexual abuse surrounding Jeffrey Epstein after a video was released purporting to show him at the home of the convicted paedophile in 2010.

"The Duke of York has been appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged crimes," Buckingham Palace said in a statement, the Press Association reported on Sunday.

"His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent," the statement said.

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