WikiLeaks said Wednesday that U.S. prosecutors have begun offering immunity in exchange for the testimony of individuals associated with the website’s publication of classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents.
The anti-secrecy group laid the claim in a statement that announced the filing of an application with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR), a monitoring group based in Washington, D.C., entered by lawyers fighting to keep WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange from being extradited to the U.S.
“The submission reveals for the first time that U.S. federal prosecutors have in the last few months formally approached people in the United States, Germany and Iceland and pressed them to testify against Mr. Assange in return for immunity from prosecution,” WikiLeaks said in a statement summarizing the confidential, 1,172-page application.
“Those approached are associated with WikiLeaks’ joint publications with other media about U.S. diplomacy, Guantanamo Bay and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the statement said.
Representatives for neither the U.S Department of Justice nor the IACHR immediately returned messages seeking comment.
Prosecutors have offered immunity to at least five individuals related to the leaks, including four Americans and one German, a source familiar with the situation told The Washington Times.
All but one of the individuals approached by prosecutors recently was involved in the publication of material released by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011, the source told The Times, when the website made waves by leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents sourced from the U.S. Departments of Defense and State by Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst.
The Justice Department announced that WikiLeaks was under investigation in 2010, and a court filing entered by federal prosecutors late last year suggested that Mr. Assange, an Australian native granted political asylum by Ecuador, has been criminally charged under seal. Prosecutors said the filing was made in error and have refused to say whether Mr. Assange is personally the subject of a criminal investigation, however, notwithstanding The Associated Press and other outlets subsequently corroborating the existence of a federal case against him.
“The revelation that the U.S. has initiated a prosecution against Mr. Assange has shocked the international community,” Mr. Assange’s lawyers wrote the IACHR, according to WikiLeaks. The U.S. government “is required to provide information as to the criminal charges that are imputed to Mr. Assange in full,” they reportedly wrote in the filing.
Mr. Assange, 47, entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 seeking protection from U.S. prosecution. He was granted political asylum within weeks of entering the embassy and has lived inside ever since, though Ecuador has recently threatened to eject him unless he abides by certain rules and regulations, potentially paving the way for possible extradition and prosecution abroad
Manning, 31, was convicted by court-martial in 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in military prison. She was released early in 2017 after the bulk of her sentence was commuted by former President Barack Obama.
Manning admittedly provided WikiLeaks with classified documents obtained during her deployment, including hundreds of thousands of State Department cables, detailed records about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and information about detainees of the secretive Guantanamo Bay military prison, among other material. She said after her release that she is subject to a non-disclose agreement concerning her case file.