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Julian Assange Reportedly Walks Free After Agreeing U.S. Plea Deal

Julian Assange Reportedly Walks Free After Agreeing U.S. Plea Deal

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has reportedly agreed a U.S. plea deal that will see him plead guilty to one criminal charge and walk free after five years in a British jail.

The 52-year-old has left the U.K. and will not be extradited to the U.S. but return to his native Australia, WikiLeaks has said. On X, formerly Twitter, the organization’s account said that Assange left Belmarsh prison on Monday after 1,901 days in a small cell. He was released at London’s Stansted Airport Monday afternoon. A video shared online by WikiLeaks appears to show Assange being driven to the airport before boarding a plane.

The development follows a lengthy and arduous legal battle across the High Court in England and the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. In May, Assange was granted an appeal on his extradition order as the Biden administration was unable to provide the court with suitable assurances, including that he would be ensured freedom of speech protections and would not receive the death penalty.

The U.S. had asked British authorities to extradite the controversial Assange so he could stand trial on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of a huge trove of classified documents more than a decade ago. American prosecutors said Assange unlawfully helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published, putting lives at risk.

But journalism organizations and human rights groups repeatedly called on Britain to refuse the extradition request. Supporters and lawyers for Assange argued that he was acting as a journalist and was therefore entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech for publishing documents that exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. They argued that his case was politically motivated.

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Assange’s lawyers previously said he could have faced up to 175 years in prison if he is convicted in the U.S., though American authorities previously said any sentence was likely to be much lower than that.

“This is the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organizers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations,” WikiLeaks said. “This created the space for a long period of negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice, leading to a deal that has not yet been formally finalized. We will provide more information as soon as possible.”

“After more than five years in a 2×3 meter cell, isolated 23 hours a day, he will soon reunite with his wife Stella Assange, and their children, who have only known their father from behind bars. 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.”

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