“Julian Assange is free”: WikiLeaks founder set free in US deal | Julian Assange News

After resisting US extradition requests for decades, Assange pleaded guilty to one espionage charge and is due to return to Australia.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is on his way back to Australia after being released from a British prison after pleading guilty to one charge of violating US espionage laws.

According to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, Assange, 52, is expected to plead guilty to one count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified U.S. national defense documents.

Assange was released from Britain’s maximum security Belmarsh prison on Monday and taken to the airport to fly out of the country. He is due to appear in court in the US Pacific territory of Saipan at 9 a.m. on Wednesday (11pm GMT) to be sentenced to the 62-month sentence he has already served.

“Julian Assange is free,” WikiLeaks said in a statement posted on X.

“He left Belmarsh maximum security prison, where he had spent 1,901 days, on the morning of 24 June. He was granted bail by the High Court in London and released at Stansted Airport in the afternoon, where he boarded a flight to depart the UK.”

“Julian is FREE!!!!” his wife, Stella, wrote to X. “Words cannot express our immense gratitude to you all. Yes, you all have mobilized for years to make this happen. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Assange rose to fame in 2006 when he launched WikiLeaks, an online whistle-blowing platform where people could anonymously submit classified material, including documents and videos.

The platform gained popularity after its video footage of a U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed 12 people, including two journalists, and its reputation was cemented in 2010 when it released troves of hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents and diplomatic cables related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Hold those in power accountable”

WikiLeaks has published materials related to many countries, but it was the United States under the Trump administration that decided to indict former President Trump on 17 charges of violating espionage laws in 2019.

US lawyers had argued that he conspired with Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst who served seven years in prison for leaking information to WikiLeaks but was released in 2017 after President Barack Obama commuted her sentence.

The charges sparked outrage, with Assange’s supporters arguing that as publisher and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, he should not have faced charges typically applied to government officials who steal or leak information.

Meanwhile, press freedom advocates argued that bringing criminal charges against Assange was a threat to free speech.

“WikiLeaks has published groundbreaking stories about government corruption and human rights abuses, holding those in power accountable for their actions,” WikiLeaks said in a statement announcing the plea deal.

“As editor-in-chief, Julian made great sacrifices for these principles and for the public’s right to know, and as he returns home to Australia, I would like to thank all those who fought alongside us and did everything in their power to secure his freedom.”

Department of Justice plea agreement documents [US Department of Justice via Reuters]

Assange was first arrested in London in 2010 on a Swedish arrest warrant issued for him on sexual assault charges. He was granted bail pending extradition proceedings and took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 after a court ruled he could be returned to Sweden to await trial.

He spent the next seven years in a small embassy, ​​during which time Swedish police dropped the rape charges and British police later arrested him for breaching his bail conditions.

Assange has been held in a British prison while his extradition case to the United States is ongoing.

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