New Zealand investigative journalist Nicky Hager has told the extradition hearing of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the UK that he redacted “a few hundred” Australian and New Zealand names from leaked files.
US prosecutors have indicted 49-year-old Australian Assange on 17 espionage charges, and one of computer misuse, over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret US military documents a decade ago, largely around the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
Giving evidence by video-link, Hager told the hearing at the Old Bailey criminal court he spent “some days’’ in 2010 looking through leaked files while working with Assange and WikiLeaks, The Australian reported.
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It was because of the efforts Assange had undertaken to redact names and prevent unredacted publication by warning the US State department and other agencies of the files, that the US authorities had time to warn sensitive sources and protect them, Hager said.
He suggested the criteria he used in redacting names was based on his own judgment and that Australia and New Zealand were “safe’’ countries and thus were considered in a different light to other countries.
“In the context of the countries I was looking at there was no threat, there was just political embarrassment factor,” Hager told the court.
In the time he worked with Assange and WikiLeaks he believed “they were very serious about what they were doing, being truthful and responsible”, The Australian reported him saying.
Assange was not the “difficult, awful person” portrayed in the media, and had “devoted himself to trying to make the world a better place”, The Press Association quoted Hager saying.
Logs from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, along with embassy cables, published by the organisation in 2010 and 2011 were “exactly the type” of leaked information needed by the public at the time, Hager said.
Assange has been in a British prison since his ejection from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in April 2019. He had been granted asylum by Ecuador in 2012 over fears he would face possible extradition to the US related to his work with WikiLeaks.
Assange’s lawyers say the prosecution is politically motivated and that he won’t receive a fair trial in the United States. They also argue that Assange was acting as a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection.
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, Donald Trump
World news – AU – Nicky Hager gives evidence for Julian Assange at extradition hearing