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Julian Assange freed; reaches plea deal to avoid US imprisonment

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Photo: John Gomez /

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge related to his alleged involvement in one of the largest breaches of U.S. government classified materials. According to newly filed federal court documents, this plea deal, negotiated with the U.S. Department of Justice, allows Assange to serve a 62-month sentence, thus effectively avoiding additional prison time in the United States.

Assange spent the stipulated sentence in the UK’s Belmarsh Prison in London while contesting his extradition to the US. This time served will be credited, effectively freeing Assange to return to his home country, Australia. This arrangement must still receive the approval of a federal judge.

As of Monday morning, Assange has been released from Belmarsh Prison, marking the end of his 1901-day incarceration there. A statement from WikiLeaks confirmed his release and detailed his subsequent departure from the UK.

“Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of 24 June, after having spent 1901 days there. He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at the Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK,” WikiLeaks announced on Tuesday.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands has scheduled a plea hearing and sentencing for Wednesday, 26 June. CNN reports that Justice Department prosecutors have requested that these proceedings occur on the same day, as Assange is reluctant to enter the continental United States for his guilty plea.

The Northern Mariana Islands Court, closer to Australia, where Assange holds citizenship, is considered a more convenient location for these proceedings.

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This plea deal marks the end of Julian Assange’s more than decade-long legal struggle.

In communication with the court, prosecutors expressed their expectation that Assange would plead guilty and be sentenced for the felony charge. This development follows a series of legal battles stemming from Assange’s publication of classified military documents provided by former Army intelligence analyst Chelesea Manning in 2010 and 2011.

Assange faced 18 counts in a 2019 indictment related to his role in the breach, which carries a potential maximum sentence of up to 172 years in prison. However, it was unlikely that he would have received the full sentence. The U.S. officials accused Assange of encouraging Manning to obtain thousands of pages of unfiltered U.S. diplomatic cables, potentially jeopardising confidential sources and sensitive information concerning Iraq war operations and Guantanamo Bay detainees.

In April, President Joe Biden hinted at a possible deal, influenced by Australian officials, to facilitate Assange’s return to Australia. However, FBI and Justice Department officials insisted that any agreement must include a felony guilty plea from Assange.

Assange’s legal journey took a favourable turn last month when a UK court ruled that he could appeal his final challenge against extradition to the U.S., a significant win in his prolonged fight against prosecution for his alleged crimes.

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Kumar Hemant

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: