WASHINGTON DC – Several US lawmakers in both houses of Congress said on Thursday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be held accountable for allegedly working with Russia to interfere in the US election.
Earlier, Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The UK police confirmed that the arrest was made “on behalf of the authorities of the United States.” Ecuador has withdrawn the asylum it had previously granted to Assange.
US officials accuse Assange of conspiracy to commit cyber invasions, the Justice Department said in a statement released today.
Now that Julian Assange has been arrested, I hope he will soon be held to account for his meddling in our elections on behalf of Putin and the Russian government.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 11, 2019
“Now that Julian Assange has been arrested, I hope he will soon be held accountable for his meddling in our elections on behalf of Putin and the Russian government,” said the Senate minority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, through his Twitter account.
Russia has denied several times that it has any interference in the US political system, saying that the allegations were produced as a justification for the electoral defeat of President Donald Trump’s opponent, as well as to divert public attention from actual cases of electoral fraud and corruption.
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Richard Burr, said in a statement on Thursday that Assange must face trial for working as part of the Russian intelligence services and conspiring to stealing confidential information.
Mr. Assange engaged in a conspiracy to steal classified information, putting millions of lives at risk all over the world. Hopefully, he will now face justice. 2/2
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) April 11, 2019
Senator Bob Menendez, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, said he expected the US justice system to prosecute Assange to face “the justice he deserves.”
“Whatever Julian Assange’s intentions were for WikiLeaks, what he’s become is a direct participant in Russian efforts to weaken the West and undermine American security. I hope British courts will quickly transfer him to U.S. custody so he can finally get the justice he deserves,” he said on Twitter.
Whatever Julian Assange’s intentions were for WikiLeaks, what he’s become is a direct participant in Russian efforts to weaken the West and undermine American security. I hope British courts will quickly transfer him to U.S. custody so he can finally get the justice he deserves.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) April 11, 2019
Republican Senator Lyndsey Graham, Democrat Representative Eliot Engel and several other lawmakers made similar comments throughout the day.
The accusation of cyber-invasion may give Assange a maximum sentence of five years. However, experts and former intelligence officials said the United States could bring additional charges against Assange.
Julian Assange became famous after WikiLeaks published a large number of leaked files, including some referring to US military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq where invasion forces were killing local people, as well as conditions at the Guantanamo detention camp.
Assange was criticized for not publishing some of the names in the archives, which is believed to have happened to preserve Afghan informants and US officials at risk in Afghanistan.
Since 2012, Assange has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as a way to avoid his extradition to Sweden, where he faced an investigation into allegations of sexual crimes.
Assange denies the allegations and considers them politically motivated. Swedish police abandoned the investigation in 2017, but Assange was still afraid of being extradited to the United States.