LONDON: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being prosecuted for publishing sources’ names and not his political opinions, lawyers representing the United States said on Wednesday (Feb 21) as Assange fights to stop his extradition from Britain.

US prosecutors are seeking to put Assange, 52, on trial over WikiLeaks’ high-profile release of vast troves of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables.

They argue the leaks imperilled the lives of their agents and there is no excuse for his criminality. Assange’s supporters, however, hail him as a journalist and a hero who is being persecuted for exposing US wrongdoing.

Assange’s lawyers told London’s High Court on Tuesday that the case was politically motivated, arguing Assange was targeted for his exposure of “state-level crimes” and that Donald Trump had requested “detailed options” on how to kill him.

But, on Wednesday, lawyers for the US said Assange’s prosecution was “based on the rule of law and evidence”.

Clair Dobbin told the court: “The appellant’s prosecution might be unprecedented, but what he did was unprecedented.”

Assange “indiscriminately and knowingly published to the world the names of individuals who acted as sources of information to the US”, she said.

“It is these core facts which distinguish the position of the appellant from the New York Times and other media outlets,” Dobbin added.

“It is this which forms the objective basis for his prosecution. It is these facts which distinguish him, not his political opinions.”

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