|By Maureen O'Gara||
|December 14, 2010 08:45 AM EST||
Lawyers representing WikiLeaks activist Julian Assange are supposed to ask a British court Tuesday to let him post bail so he can get out of jail.
He was incarcerated last Tuesday because the judge felt reasonably sure he would bolt to avoid an extradition hearing Thursday that could return him to Sweden for questioning on rape and assault charges pressed by two women.
The court was also reportedly concerned with his safety.
Over the weekend his lawyers said on Al-Jazeera of all places that they expected the United States government to press charges of espionage against the man responsible for releasing sensitive classified American diplomatic cables into the wild.
They claim they heard from Swedish authorities and US lawyers that the US had convened a federal grand jury in Virginia to indict Assange.
Cnet, which has produced the most sensible legal analysis yet, has suggested that the US may deny he is a journalist - which shouldn't be hard - to sidestep First Amendment issues - though even newspapers and the WikiLeaks mirror sites could be prosecuted the Pentagon Papers notwithstanding - and that, given precedents that narrow any defense, Assange could face "long legal odds" under the broad 1917 Espionage Act.
That law stipulates that anyone who has unauthorized possession of documents related to national defense and publishes them, believing they "could be issued to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation," is guilty of a federal felony. One court has ruled that bad intent isn't necessary.
The Justice Department hasn't revealed its plans and no charges have been filed.
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