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Julian Assange Secures Freedom With Plea Deal, Ending 14-Year Legal Saga

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been sentenced to time already served in Britain as part of a plea deal with the US Justice Department that secures his freedom. The plea was entered Wednesday morning in federal court in Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the Pacific. Julian […]

Julian Assange Secures Freedom With Plea Deal, Ending 14-Year Legal Saga
Julian Assange Secures Freedom With Plea Deal, Ending 14-Year Legal Saga

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been sentenced to time already served in Britain as part of a plea deal with the US Justice Department that secures his freedom. The plea was entered Wednesday morning in federal court in Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the Pacific.

Julian Assange, who has been detained in the United Kingdom since 2019, pleaded guilty to obtaining and publishing US military secrets. The plea deal, which resolves a criminal case involving the receipt and publication of war logs and diplomatic cables detailing US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan, allows Assange to return to Australia without serving any time in an American prison.

US District Judge Ramona Manglona, an appointee of President Barack Obama, imposed the sentence. As part of the plea deal, Assange admitted guilt to a single felony count and agreed to destroy classified information provided to WikiLeaks.

The resolution of the case marks the end of a prolonged legal battle that has raised divisive questions about press freedom and national security. Assange’s legal troubles began in 2010 with the publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents and continued with his self-imposed exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London from 2012 to 2019. After his asylum was revoked, he was arrested by British police and has since been fighting extradition to the United States.

Assange appeared in court wearing a dark suit with a loosened tie, accompanied by members of his legal team and Australian officials, including the top Australian diplomat in the U.K. During the hearing, he listened intently as the terms of the deal were discussed and even cracked jokes with the judge about the time difference between the U.K. and Saipan.

The Justice Department’s case, brought under the Trump administration, alleged that Julian Assange conspired with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to obtain and publish classified records, including names of human sources who provided information to US forces. Supporters of Assange have lauded his efforts in bringing to light military conduct that might have otherwise been concealed, while critics have argued that his actions endangered lives and overstepped the bounds of traditional journalism.

Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, expressed her elation at the news, stating that it had been “touch and go” whether the deal would go ahead. She confirmed that details of the agreement would be made public once the judge signed off on it, and that Assange would be a free man once this occurred.

Upon leaving the London prison where he had been held, Assange boarded a plane that made a brief stop in Bangkok before continuing to Saipan. A video posted by WikiLeaks showed him looking out the window at the sky, symbolizing his transition from detention to freedom.

The plea deal brings an end to Assange’s nearly 14-year legal ordeal, allowing him to return to his native Australia and marking the conclusion of a significant chapter in the ongoing debate over the balance between national security and press freedom.

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Julian AssangeTDGThe Daily GuardianUSUS Justice DepartmentWikileaks