Assange legal team sees 'no resolution' to US spying charges despite talk of plea deal

WikiLeaks founder is battling extradition to the US, where he could be detained in a maximum security prison

Julian Assange arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court. The US says he put lives in danger by releasing classified documents. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said there was no indication of a resolution to US charges against him, despite reports that Washington was considering the offer of a plea deal to end a lengthy legal battle over his extradition from the UK.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the US Justice Department may offer to downgrade the espionage charges against Mr Assange to a misdemeanour offence of mishandling classified information. A Justice Department representative declined to comment on the report.

The US wants to put Mr Assange on trial over the publication of thousands of classified documents 14 years ago. The documents included diplomatic cables and information about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"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," said Barry Pollack, who is representing Mr Assange.

Julian Assange through the years - in pictures

In recent months, Justice Department officials and Mr Assange's legal team have had preliminary meetings about a plea deal, but the discussions "remain in flux and the talks could fizzle", the WSJ reported.

Mr Assange is battling extradition from Britain to the US. Washington says the release of the documents put lives in danger.

Mr Assange's supporters say he has been victimised because he exposed US wrongdoing, including in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. If extradited and convicted of espionage, he faces a sentence of up to 175 years in a maximum security prison.

Rights groups, media organisations and the leaders of countries including Mexico, Brazil and Australia have called for the charges against Mr Assange, who is an Australian citizen, to be dropped. He mounted a challenge for a new appeal against his extradition, his last available legal move in Britain.

Updated: March 21, 2024, 1:59 PM