US charges WikiLeaks' Assange in computer hacking conspiracy

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This file photo taken on May 19, 2017 shows Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaking to a crowd of reporters and supporters from the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, Britain. [Photo/Xinhua]

U.S. prosecutors said Thursday they have charged Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, with conspiracy to commit computer hacking.

The indictment alleges that Assange engaged in a conspiracy with former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to access a classified U.S. government computer, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

If convicted, Assange, 47, faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

He was arrested by British police in London and carried out of the Ecuadorean embassy there on Thursday pursuant to an extradition treaty between the United States and Britain.

Assange is alleged to have assisted Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network, a U.S. government network used for classified documents and communications.

Manning, who had access to the computers in connection with her duties as an intelligence analyst, was using the computers to download classified records to transmit to WikiLeaks, according to the DOJ.

Manning was convicted of espionage in 2013. Her prison sentence was commuted by then U.S. President Barack Obama in 2017.

Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador in 2012 while on bail in Britain over sexual assault allegations against him in Sweden and had remained in the Ecuadorean embassy in London until his arrest on Thursday.

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