WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange strikes plea deal with US, walks out of prison | World News - Hindustan Times

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange strikes plea deal with US, walks out of prison

Jun 25, 2024 06:46 AM IST

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge in a deal with the US Justice Department.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday walked out of prison after he agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge in a deal with the US Justice Department, according to court papers filed on Monday night. Assange will plead guilty this week to a single criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US national defence documents.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (REUTERS)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (REUTERS)

The deal will end his imprisonment in Britain and allow him to return home to Australia, ending a long-running legal saga that spanned multiple continents and centered on the publication of a trove of classified documents. According to the deal, the WikiLeaks founder will be spared from any additional prison time.

Assange is scheduled to appear in the federal court in the Mariana Islands on Wednesday and is expected to return to Australia after the hearing.

Assange's wife reacts to him walking out of prison

The WikiLeaks founder's wife Stella thanked campaigners for their support as he was released after five years in British custody.

“Julian is free!!!!” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Words cannot express our immense gratitude to YOU- yes YOU, who have all mobilised for years and years to make this come true. THANK YOU. tHANK YOU. THANK YOU," she added.

Who is Julian Assange, and what are the cases against him?

Assange, born in Townsville, Australia, gained a reputation as a computer programmer during his teenage years. In 1995, he was fined for computer hacking but avoided prison on the condition that he would not offend again. He founded WikiLeaks in 2006, creating an internet-based "dead letter drop" for leakers of classified or sensitive information.

In 2010, WikiLeaks released hundreds of thousands of classified US military documents on Washington's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - the largest security breaches of their kind in US military history - along with swaths of diplomatic cables. The trove of more than 700,000 documents included diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts, such as a 2007 video of a US Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Iraq, killing a dozen people.

Following this, Assange was indicted during former President Donald Trump's administration.

Months later, a Swedish court ordered Assange's arrest on sex crime allegations, which he denied. However, he was arrested in October 2010 in Britain on a European arrest warrant after Swedish authorities said they wanted to question him over a sex crime, but he was freed on bail. Following this, Assange fled to Ecuador's embassy, where he remained for seven years, to avoid extradition to Sweden.

In 2019, Assange was dragged out of Ecuador's embassy and jailed for skipping bail. Since then, he has been in London's Belmarsh top-security jail, where he has been fighting extradition to the United States.

(With inputs from AP, Reuters)

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