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Assange: Manning conviction a "dangerous precedent"

Following Tuesday's espionage conviction of 25-year-old Army private Bradley Manning for passing on battlefield documents to WikiLeaks, the group's founder, Julian Assange, said the conviction against a whistleblower was "dangerous precedent."

"Bradley Manning's alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions, and induced democratic reform," said Assange in a statement. "He is the quintessential whistleblower.

"This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is 'espionage.'"

Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy in a military court-martialTuesday. But was convicted of six espionage counts, five theft charges, a computer fraud charge and other military infractions. Manning's sentencing hearing is set to begin Wednesday.

Assange also spoke of the absence of a victim during the proceedings. "The prosecution did not present evidence that -- or even claim that -- a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning's disclosures," he said. "The government never claimed Mr. Manning was working for a foreign power.

"The only 'victim' was the U.S. government's wounded pride, but the abuse of this fine young man was never the way to restore it. Rather, the abuse of Bradley Manning has left the world with a sense of disgust at how low the Obama administration has fallen. It is not a sign of strength, but of weakness."

Manning, a native of Crescent, Okla., had prior to the verdict admitted to sending 470,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables and other material, including several battlefield video clips, to WikiLeaks while working in Army intelligence in Iraq in early 2010.

WikiLeaks published much of the material on its website, as well as in cooperation with several news outlets like The New York Times and The Guardian.

Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador last year. He has been living inside the South American country's embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations by two women of sexual assault, which he denies.

In Washington, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Intelligence Committee joined in a statement declaring "justice has been served today."

"Manning harmed our national security, violated the public's trust, and now stands convicted of multiple serious crimes," said Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence committee, and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the panel's top Democrat.

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