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Julian Assange to go free in guilty plea deal with US • The Register

Julian Assange to go free in guilty plea deal with US • The Register
Julian Assange to go free in guilty plea deal with US • The Register

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been freed from prison in the UK after agreeing to plead guilty to just one count of conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information, brought against him by the United States. Uncle Sam previously filed more than a dozen counts.

Assange has spent the past five years in a British super-max battling against extradition to the US to face trial for publicly leaking various classified government files via his website.

He is now set to return to his native Australia as a free man once he’s appeared in a US federal court this week to enter a guilty plea.

Assange’s whistleblower organization on Monday confirmed the activist had “left Belmarsh maximum security prison” earlier that day after being “granted bail by the High Court in London.” We’re told he was released at Stansted airport, where he boarded a plane to leave the UK.

His destination appears to be the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Pacific. A letter [PDF] from the US Department of Justice’s National Security Division dated June 24 states the WikiLeaker will appear before a federal district judge on the islands on Wednesday to admit the allegation against him.

After that, he is expected to be allowed to leave for Australia. Whatever sentence the federal district court decides is expected to have elapsed due to time already served, allowing him to go free.

Prior to being locked up in Belmarsh, Assange spent about seven years in self-exile within the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face a police investigation into a rape allegation made against him that he denied and what he feared would ultimately be extraction to the States regarding the leaking of classified info.

In 2019, he was turfed out by the Ecuadorians and handed over to UK cops, which is how he ended up in maximum security fighting off extradition attempts by America. Later that year, Sweden dropped its probe into Assange for a second time.

The Pacific islands were chosen by US prosecutors “in light of the defendant’s opposition to traveling to the continental United States to enter his guilty plea and the proximity of this federal US district court to the defendant’s country of citizenship, Australia, to which we expect he will return at the conclusion of the proceedings,” the letter states, along with an indication that the whole process will be over in a single day.

Assange therefore appears to be bound for home – and free.

Sorted last week

At the time of writing, the US, UK, and Australian authorities all appear to be silent on how and why the plea deal was struck. However it appears to have been in the works for some time: A video posted at around 0100 on Monday, UK time, and dated June 19 features Stella Assange – Julian’s wife – saying she expects his release within a week. The video also featured Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, saying he expects Assange’s imminent release.

Reduced charges

The US had sought to extradite Assange to face 18 charges, but the latest filing [PDF] against him lists just one charge: Conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information.

That charge was listed in a superseding indictment issued by the US Attorney’s Office in 2022, along with charges including conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, obtaining national defense information, and disclosure of national defense information.

The absence of the last charge is surely notable – Assange demonstrably did disclose such information, but he and WikiLeaks have long argued that doing so was an act of journalism done in the public interest and therefore justifiable.

Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning leaves prison, heads straight for booze and pizza

FROM 2017

The fresh court filing details the sole remaining charge, which it spells out as Assange having “knowingly and unlawfully conspired” with WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning to commit three offenses against the United States, namely:

  • To receive and obtain documents, writings, and notes connected with the national defense, including such materials classified up to the SECRET level, for the purpose of obtaining information respecting the national defense, and knowing and with reason to believe at the time such materials were received and obtained, they had been and would be taken, obtained, and disposed of by a person contrary to the provisions of Chapter 37 of Title 18 of the United States Code, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 793(c);
  • To willfully communicate documents relating to the national defense, including documents classified up to the SECRET level, from persons having lawful possession of or access to such documents, to persons not entitled to receive them, in violation of Title 18, United States Code. Section 793(d); and
  • To willfully communicate documents relating to the national defense from persons in unauthorized possession of such documents to persons not entitled to receive them, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 793(e).

Private Manning was collared and jailed for 35 years in 2013 for illegally passing classified military intelligence to Assange to leak – most notably the Cablegate files – a sentence commuted by President Obama in 2017.

We’ve asked the Five Eyes governments for more info, and we’ll let you know if and when we get it. ®

Julian Assange to go free in guilty plea deal with US • The Register

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