23:46 GMT08 August 2020
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    The founder of the WikiLeaks website Julian Assange is facing extradition to the US where he is wanted on computer intrusion and espionage-related charges. On 24 June, the US Department of Justice released a new indictment against him, with some of the accusations mentioning information gathering by a so-called “teenager”.

    The testimony of Sigurdur Thordarson, a convicted Icelandic “conman” who was allegedly volunteering for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange back in 2010 when he was just 17, appears in a new DoJ indictment against the Australian, Bloomberg reported, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

    Teenage Volunteer

    Bloomberg cites “previously undisclosed online chat transcripts” to argue that during his work for Assange, Thordarson was tasked with managing a “chat portal” for volunteers, developing partnership with media companies, compiling information about people who turned against WikiLeaks – a so-called “enemies list” – as well as recruiting hackers to work for the organization. The teenage aide also tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to persuade Justin Bieber, Paul McCartney and other celebrities to come to Assange’s 40th birthday bash, the transcripts apparently reveal.

    Protesters hold banners outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London, where Julian Assange is due to appear, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020.
    © AP Photo / Kirsty Wigglesworth
    Protesters hold banners outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London, where Julian Assange is due to appear, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020.

    According to the media, the young enthusiast also attempted to break into the computer system of the Icelandic government, although it’s not quite clear to what extent Assange was involved or even aware of these efforts, the report says. He was still in “close proximity” to his teenage volunteer at this time, given that the two started working together in November 2010.

    However, after a year or so their close partnership reportedly came to an end due to a number of disputes. According to sources, in 2011 Thordarson turned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to hand over “thousands” of chat transcripts and other documentation gathered during his time with WikiLeaks.

    Later, Thordarson was sentenced to five years in an Icelandic prison for a number of offences, including fraud, embezzlement and sexual offences against minors. He has recently been released from prison.

    Charges Against Assange

    The founder of WikiLeaks is currently in London fighting extradition to the United States where he is facing charges related to conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and unauthorized obtainment of information related to US national security. Based on these charges, the Australian faces up to 175 years in prison.

    The indictment released by the Justice Department on 24 June contributes to the existing charges, alleging that Assange asked Thordarson “to commit computer intrusions and steal additional information, including audio records of phone conversations” of various officials from the government of an unnamed country, which a person familiar with the matter suggested was Iceland.

    On Monday, WikiLeaks representatives said that “the new superseding indictment contains no new charges and is primarily based on the witness testimony of a convicted conman, who has previously been imprisoned over embezzling WikiLeaks”.

    Julian Assange spent nearly seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in the United Kingdom to avoid prosecution; however, his asylum status was revoked in April 2019.

    Justin Bieber, WikiLeaks, Iceland, Julian Assange, Australia, United States, United Kingdom
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