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Julian Assange freed from UK prison after a plea deal with US


mangaloretoday.com

Washington, jUNE 25, 2024: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has agreed to plead guilty in US court to revealing military secrets in exchange for his freedom, ending his years-long legal drama, according to court documents released Monday night.

Assange, who had been in custody in Britain, will plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate national defense information, according to the document filed in court in the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Pacific.


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WikiLeaks reported early Tuesday morning British time that "Julian Assange is free" and had left the country. He is scheduled to appear Wednesday morning local time in the US territory.

Assange is expected to be sentenced to 62 months in prison, with credit for the five years he has served in prison in Britain. This means he could return to his native Australia.

The publisher now aged 52 was wanted by Washington for publishing hundreds of thousands of secret US documents from 2010 as head of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

During his ordeal Assange became a hero to free speech campaigners around the world and a villain to those who thought he endangered US national security and intelligence sources by revealing secrets.

US authorities wanted to put Assange on trial for divulging US military secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This plea bargain agreement will presumably end Assange’s nearly 14-year legal drama.

Assange was indicted by a US federal grand jury in 2019 on 18 counts stemming from WikiLeaks’ publication of a trove of national security documents.

Announcement of the deal came two weeks before Assange was scheduled to appear in court in Britain to appeal against a ruling approving his extradition to the United States.

Assange has been detained in the high-security Belmarsh prison in London since April 2019.

He was arrested after spending seven years holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced accusations of sexual assault that were eventually dropped.

The material he released included video showing civilians being killed by fire from a US helicopter gunship in Iraq in 2007. The victims included two Reuters journalists.

The United States has accused Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act. Supporters have warned this means he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison.

The British government approved his extradition in June 2022.

In the latest twist to the saga, two British judges said in May that he could appeal against his extradition to the United States.

The appeal was to address the question of whether, as a foreigner on trial in America, he would enjoy the protections of freedom of speech accorded under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

The plea deal was not entirely unexpected. President Joe Biden had been under growing pressure to drop the long-running case against Assange.

n February the government of Australia made an official request to this effect and Biden said he would consider it, raising hopes among Assange supporters that his ordeal might end.




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