Julian Assange Reaches Plea Deal with the U.S. Allowing Him to Go Free

Julian Assange Reaches Plea Deal with the U.S. Allowing Him to Go Free

**Julian Assange Reaches Plea Deal with the U.S. Allowing Him to Go Free**

In a significant turn of events, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been released from a British prison and is on his way to a remote Pacific island to finalize a plea deal with the U.S. Justice Department. This agreement, which will see Assange plead guilty to a conspiracy charge, marks the end of a protracted legal battle over the publication of classified documents.

According to court documents, Assange was charged with conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information. This charge, typically indicative of a plea deal, will allow Assange to regain his freedom after years of legal turmoil. WikiLeaks shared footage on social media of Assange boarding a plane at Stansted Airport near London on Monday afternoon.

A letter from Justice Department official Matthew McKenzie confirmed that Assange would appear in court in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S.-controlled territory north of Guam, to plead guilty. The court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday. Assange’s plane made a refueling stop in Bangkok early Tuesday before continuing to the Northern Mariana Islands for what could be his final court hearing.

The islands are located 3,400 miles north of Australia, Assange’s home country, where he is expected to return following the proceedings. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed relief over the resolution of the case, stating, “The case has dragged on for too long, there is nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration, and we want him brought home to Australia.”

Assange’s mother, Christine Assange, also expressed her gratitude, saying, “I am grateful that my son’s ordeal is finally coming to an end. This shows the importance and power of quiet diplomacy.” His wife, Stella Assange, who is currently in Australia with their two children, shared her elation with BBC Radio 4, stating, “He will be a free man once it is signed off by a judge.”

Stella Assange, a lawyer, mentioned that she would seek a pardon on her husband’s behalf, highlighting concerns about the implications of a guilty plea on an espionage charge for journalists worldwide. The U.S. charges against Assange stem from one of the largest leaks of classified information in American history, which occurred during President Barack Obama’s first term. Assange conspired with Chelsea Manning, a military intelligence analyst, to disclose tens of thousands of activity reports about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, State Department cables, and assessment briefs of detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

Court documents revealing Assange’s plea deal were filed on Monday evening in the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands. Assange is expected to be sentenced to 62 months, with credit for time served in British prison, allowing him to return to Australia.

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson emphasized that the plea deal decision was made independently by the Department of Justice, with no involvement from the White House.

Assange has spent the last five years in the high-security Belmarsh Prison in east London. Prior to that, he spent seven years in self-exile at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London until his asylum was withdrawn, and he was forcibly removed and arrested in April 2019. A superseding indictment was returned in May 2019, followed by a second in June 2020.

Assange has been fighting extradition for over a decade, initially in connection with a sex crimes case in Sweden that was eventually dropped, and later in connection with the U.S. case. In March, the High Court in London granted him permission for a full hearing on his appeal, seeking assurances that he could rely on the First Amendment in a U.S. trial. A hearing on Assange’s free speech rights was scheduled for July.

WikiLeaks also published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, which had a significant impact on the 2016 presidential race. Russian intelligence officers were later indicted in connection with the hacking in 2018, a case brought by then-special counsel Robert Mueller. At a joint news conference with then-President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump contradicted the indictment and the intelligence community, stating that Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial” of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison, had her sentence commuted by Obama in 2017. Manning was later held in contempt of court for nearly a year after refusing to answer questions for a grand jury and was released following an attempted suicide.

Assange’s release has been met with mixed reactions. While some view him as a hero who exposed government corruption and human rights abuses, others criticize his actions and the potential consequences of his leaks. The debate over Assange’s legacy and the implications of his work for press freedom and national security continues.

As Assange prepares to return to Australia, his supporters celebrate his release, while his detractors remain critical of his actions. The resolution of this case marks a significant moment in the ongoing discussion about the role of whistleblowers and the balance between transparency and national security.

Source: NBC News, BBC, Reuters

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top