“Mr Snowden is as good an example of a hero as any. He has performed an extremely courageous act,” said Assange, hailing him for exposing America’s “creeping mass surveillance state”.
“What we don’t want to see is him ending up the same way as Bradley Manning – detained without trial, abused in prison and now facing life imprisonment.”
Manning, a 25-year-old US soldier, is being court-martialled for passing the war logs and cables to WikiLeaks, with prosecutors arguing that leaking classified information is equivalent to helping Al-Qaeda.
Aiding the enemy can carry the death sentence, though prosecutors are not seeking it in Manning’s case.
“They’re trying to erect a precedent that speaking to the media is the communicating with the enemy – a death penalty offence,” said Assange.
“What’s at stake in this trial is the future of press in the United States and in the rest of the world.”
The name of the silver-haired WikiLeaks founder has come up frequently during the court-martial, which began on June 3. He claims there is a sealed US indictment against him, and that his conviction is a “99-percent chance” certainty if he ever ends up on US territory.
Assange’s critics accuse him of hiding from justice over the sex allegations – which he denies – saying his fears of being passed from Sweden to the US are unfounded.