WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange to be freed after pleading guilty to US Espionage Act charge

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Assange Expected to Return to Australia After Guilty Plea

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WASHINGTON, June 24 (Reuters) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is set to plead guilty this week to a U.S. espionage charge, concluding his imprisonment in Britain and allowing him to return to Australia. This deal ends a prolonged legal battle.

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

He will be sentenced to 62 months, equating to time already served, at a hearing in Saipan at 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday (1900 EDT/2300 GMT on Tuesday). Assange is expected to return home to Australia following the hearing. His lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

WikiLeaks, under Assange’s leadership, released hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. military documents in 2010, detailing Washington’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, alongside numerous diplomatic cables. This mass release, facilitated by former U.S. military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, marked one of the largest security breaches in U.S. military history.

The charges against Assange, brought during former President Donald Trump’s administration, have incited outrage among his supporters and press freedom advocates. They argue that Assange, as a publisher, should not face charges usually reserved for government employees who leak information. Many contend that his prosecution poses a significant threat to free speech.

An Australian government spokesperson reiterated Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s stance: “Mr. Assange’s case has dragged on for too long, and there is nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration.”

Assange’s legal troubles began in 2010 when he was arrested in Britain on a European arrest warrant issued by Swedish authorities over now-dropped sex-crime allegations. To avoid extradition to Sweden, he sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London for seven years. In 2019, he was forcibly removed from the embassy and jailed for skipping bail, and has since been held in London’s Belmarsh high-security prison while fighting extradition to the United States.

Assange’s time in Belmarsh is comparable to the 63-month sentence given to Reality Winner, a former intelligence contractor who leaked classified materials. During his time in the Ecuadorean embassy, Assange married his partner Stella, with whom he has two children.

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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