Julian Assange plea deal leaks path to freedom

Picture courtesy of Lionel Simon

Julian Assange yesterday agreed to plead guilty to an espionage charge in a move aimed at securing his release. The founder of WikiLeaks is currently en route to Australia, having been freed from prison in the United Kingdom after consenting to admit to breaching United States espionage laws.

The 52 year old editor, publisher, and activist will admit to conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US national defence documents, as stated in a filing at the US District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands.

He was released from the high-security Belmarsh prison in the UK yesterday, June 24, and was subsequently escorted to the airport for departure from the country. Assange is scheduled to appear in court in Saipan, a US Pacific territory, at 9am tomorrow, which is 5am Thailand time, where he will be sentenced for the 62 months he has already served, reported Aljazeera.

Julian Assange is free,” Wikileaks said in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of June 24, after having spent 1901 days there. He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stanstead airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.”

“Julian is free!!!!” wife Stella wrote on X. “Words cannot express our immense gratitude to YOU – yes, YOU, who have all mobilised for years and years to make this come true. THANK YOU. tHANK YOU, THANK YOU.”

Assange gained prominence with the launch of WikiLeaks in 2006, establishing an online platform where individuals could anonymously submit classified material, such as documents and videos.

The platform gained widespread attention following the release of footage depicting a US Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad in which 12 people, including two journalists, were killed. This incident heightened WikiLeaks’ visibility. Subsequently, in 2010, WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of classified US documents concerning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with a substantial collection of diplomatic cables, solidifying its reputation.

While WikiLeaks covered materials from various countries, it was the US government, under former President Donald Trump’s administration, that opted to charge Assange in 2019 with 17 counts of breaching the Espionage Act. US prosecutors alleged he conspired with Chelsea Manning, a former army intelligence analyst who served seven years in prison for providing material to WikiLeaks; she was released after President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in 2017.

The charges prompted a significant outcry, with supporters of Assange arguing that, as WikiLeaks’ publisher and editor-in-chief, he should not have been subjected to charges typically reserved for government employees involved in the unauthorized release of information. Advocates for press freedom also contended that prosecuting Assange posed a threat to free speech rights.

Wikileaks last night revealed the plea deal struck by Assange’s team.

“WikiLeaks published groundbreaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions.

“As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people’s right to know. 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.”

Assange was initially arrested in London in 2010 on a Swedish warrant alleging sexual assault. He was granted bail pending an extradition hearing but sought refuge in Ecuador’s London Embassy in 2012 following a court decision that he could be extradited to Sweden for trial.

For the next seven years, Assange remained in the embassy, during which the Swedish authorities dropped the rape charges. However, UK police later arrested him for violating his bail conditions.

Subsequently, Assange was detained in a UK prison while his extradition case to the US progressed through the courts.

Thailand News

Bob Scott

Bob Scott is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for travel. Born and raised in Newcastle, England, he spent more than 10 years in Asia. He worked as a sports writer in the north of England and London before relocating to Asia. Now he resides in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is the Editor-in-Chief for The Thaiger English News. With a vast amount of experience from living and writing abroad, Bob Scott is an expert on all things related to Asian culture and lifestyle.

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