Julian Assange's Lawyers Fear U.S. Spy Charges

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2010 file photo, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaks during a news conference in London. Police say WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested on a Swedish warrant. Assange was arrested Tuesday Dec. 7, 2010 and was due to appear at Westminster Magistrate's Court in London later in the day. (AP Photo/Lennart Preiss, File)
Lennart Preiss
WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange is currently in jail in England awaiting further extradition hearings related to sexual assault charges in Sweden. He may also soon face spying charges in the U.S.
Lennart Preiss

As WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange sits in a British jail awaiting further extradition hearings related to charges in Sweden of sexual assault, his lawyers claim they are also preparing for an indictment in U.S. courts.

"Our position of course is that we don't believe it applies to Mr. Assange and that in any event he's entitled to First Amendment protection as publisher of Wikileaks and any prosecution under the Espionage Act would in my view be unconstitutional and puts at risk all media organizations in the U.S.," Assange's attorney Jennifer Robinson told ABC News.

Although Robinson told ABC News she believed a U.S. indictment of Assange was imminent, the Department of Justice has denied they are planning on prosecuting Assange soon. A Justice Department official told NBC News on Friday that legal action against Assange "is not imminent." The U.S. government is moving slowly because it wants to make sure the prosecution is on solid ground, officials said.

Speaking to CBS News on Thursday, one of Assange's other lawyers, Mark Stephens, said they are concerned about the close working relationship between U.S. and Swedish officials.

Stephens said: "Sweden and the United States have worked hand-in-glove for a number of years. There are also today (reports) in the national newspapers here in London that there are...secret talks going on as we speak, described as preliminary talks, between the United States officials and Sweden officials about handing Julian Assange over to the United States as soon as he gets to Sweden."

Assange had been transferred on Thursday to the segregation unit of Wandsworth prison where the authorities are planning to give him limited access to the internet, reports the Guardian.

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Assange is thought to have asked to be housed away from other prisoners, who had shown a high degree of interest in him after he arrived, the Guardian reports. A source said other inmates had been supportive of Assange.

Assange's legal team will attempt to secure bail for him from Westminster magistrates next Tuesday, the Guardian reports.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters earlier this week the Justice Department was "looking into" charges against WikiLeaks and Assange. He has provided no further public comment since then.

  • Joshua Norman

    Joshua Norman is a Senior Editor at CBSNews.com.