Julian Assange to plead guilty, return to Australia, after US deal


Tuesday, 25 June 2024 (09:43 IST)
Julian Assange will plead guilty to violating US espionage laws in a deal with the Justice Department that will see him return to his home country of Australia.
Wikileaks said on Tuesday that Assange had left Belmarsh Prison, where he had been detained for five years, and has flown out of the UK.
"This is the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organizers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations," Wikileaks said on social media.
"This created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice, leading to a deal that has not yet been formally finalized."
What do we know about the deal?
Assange is due to appear before court in the US territory of the Northern Mariana Islands on Wednesday.
In documents filed late on Monday, prosecutors said Assange will plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate national defense information.
The Wikileaks founder is due to be sentenced to 62 months of time that he has already served in the United Kingdom.
A marathon legal battle
Assange founded Wikileaks in 2006. The website went on to release hundreds of thousands of classified US military documents on Washington's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a trove of diplomatic cables, provided by Chelsea Manning.
In 2010 Swedish authorities issued an arrest warrant for Assange over rape allegations, which he denied. Assange was arrested in Britain after presenting to police, and granted bail.
In 2012, the Australian whistleblower spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to avoid arrest over the rape investigation, which he feared could lead to him being extradited to the US on espionage charges. The Swedish investigation was later dropped.
In 2019 Assange was expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy and has remained in the UK's Belmarsh Prison ever since.
Later that year the US Justice Department unsealed indictments against Assange, charging him with violating the Espionage Act. 
A spokesperson for the Australian government said on Tuesday that the Assange case "has dragged on for too long and there is nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration."
Assange family welcomes release
Assange's loved ones thanked those who were involved in the plea deal.
"I am grateful that my son's ordeal is finally coming to an end. This shows the importance and power of quiet diplomacy," his mother Christine said in a statement carried by Australian media.
His wife, Stella, also welcomed the news that he had been released from custody in the UK.
"Words cannot express our immense gratitude" to everyone who called for Assange's release, she said on social media.

Read on Webdunia

Related Article