25 June 2024

Julian Assange freed after reaching plea deal with US authorities

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Julian Assange

Julian Assange boards a private jet at London’s Stanstead Airport Monday afternoon local time. Photo: Screenshot/Wikileaks.

Julian Assange has been freed from Belmarsh Prison in the UK after reaching a plea deal with US authorities and being granted bail. It is believed he is on his way home to Australia.

The 52-year-old Wikileaks founder had been held in the UK prison since being forcibly removed from more than six years of self-imposed exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2019.

In a brief statement on X, Wikileaks announced, “Julian Assange is free”.

“He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of 24 June, after having spent 1901 days there,” it reads.

“He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.

“This is the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organisers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations,” it added.

“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 finalised. We will provide more information as soon as possible.

“As he returns to Australia, we thank all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom. Julian’s freedom is our freedom.”

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Assange was indicted for espionage by the US in 2010 after WikiLeaks was given and released more than 700,000 classified military documents, footage and diplomatic cables pertaining to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the time, it was considered the largest security breach of its kind in US military history.

The documents were given to Wikileaks by former US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who was also prosecuted under the Espionage Act but whose sentence was commuted by former US President Barack Obama in January 2017.

Mr Assange has agreed to plead guilty to a single criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US national defence documents. He will have his case heard by a US court located in the western Pacific US territory of the Mariana Islands, where it has been reported his sentence will be commuted to time served at Belmarsh Prison.

While there has been no official statement from the Australian Government, The Guardian has reported that it was aware of the legal proceedings and that, “Prime Minister Albanese has been clear – Mr Assange’s case has dragged on for too long and there is nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration”.

Mr Albanese is reported to have made representations on Mr Assange’s behalf during his visit to the US earlier this year.

Original Article published by Andrew McLaughlin on Riotact.

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