‘Julian Assange is free’: Wikileaks founder freed in deal with US

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Julian Assange to Plead Guilty to US Espionage Law Violation, Set to Return to Australia

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is expected to plead guilty this week to violating U.S. espionage law, according to court filings. This deal will conclude his imprisonment in the United Kingdom and allow him to return home to Australia.

Assange, 52, has agreed to plead guilty to a single criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified U.S. national defense documents, as stated in filings from the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands.

Assange is scheduled to be sentenced to 62 months of time already served during a hearing on the island of Saipan at 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday (23:00 GMT on Tuesday). “Julian Assange is free,” WikiLeaks announced in a statement on X. “He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of 24 June, after having spent 1,901 days there. He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted airport in the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.”

Assange gained prominence with the 2006 launch of WikiLeaks, a platform for whistleblowers to anonymously submit classified material. The release of a video showing a U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad, which killed a dozen people including two journalists, brought significant attention to the platform. In 2010, WikiLeaks released hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a trove of diplomatic cables, further cementing its reputation.

Although WikiLeaks published materials from various countries, Assange was charged in 2019 under the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump with 17 counts of violating the U.S. Espionage Act. U.S. lawyers argued that Assange conspired with Chelsea Manning, a former army intelligence analyst who was imprisoned for seven years for leaking material to WikiLeaks before her sentence was commuted by former U.S. President Barack Obama.

The charges against Assange sparked international outrage. Supporters argued that as WikiLeaks’ publisher and editor-in-chief, Assange should not face charges typically used against federal employees who leak information. Press freedom advocates contended that criminally charging Assange posed a threat to free speech.

In its statement announcing the plea deal, WikiLeaks remarked, “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 first arrested in London in 2010 on a Swedish warrant for sexual assault allegations. After being granted bail, he took refuge in Ecuador’s London Embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden. He spent seven years in the embassy, during which Swedish authorities dropped the rape charges, before being arrested by UK police for breaching bail conditions. He has since been held in a UK prison while the U.S. extradition case proceeded through the courts.

By Naija247news
By Naija247newshttps://www.naija247news.com/
Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

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