Julian Assange Will Be Released, Heading Back to Australia

Julian Assange Will Be Released, Heading Back to Australia

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange will be released from prison in the UK and allowed to return to his home country of Australia after he pleads guilty to illegally disseminating national security material in the U.S., according to a surprising new report from NBC News.

Court documents filed Monday by the U.S. federal government in the Northern Mariana Islands suggest the plea deal is imminent, though the New York Times notes that Assange’s release depends on there being no “last minute snags.” Assange previously faced 170 years in prison.

The 52-year-old has been held in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison for the past five years, a period that follows a years-long saga that saw Assange holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy while claiming asylum in 2012. Assange was physically dragged out of the embassy by British authorities in April 2019.

The Times explains that a plea deal was deemed acceptable to top officials at the Justice Department because Assange had already served five years in the UK while awaiting extradition to the U.S.

The original charges against Assange were brought by the U.S. Department of Justice under President Donald Trump in 2019, despite the fact that Trump would often talk about how much he loved WikiLeaks. Trump failed to pardon Assange before leaving office, something many Assange backers insisted the former president would do.

Assange faced 18 counts of violating the Espionage Act along with charges related to criminal hacking, but the Times reports he’ll only plead guilty to one charge. Assange allegedly provided instructions to whistleblower Chelsea Manning on how to access classified computers, which is what experts claimed was the differentiating factor that made his conduct more serious than a typical journalist who simply disseminates sensitive information.

The plea deal would put an end to the incredibly long saga that has engulfed Assange for over a decade now, though it’s not clear whether the WikiLeaks founder would immediately get back to work.

The Australian government made repeated pleas to the White House for Assange’s release, though it was never clear whether President Joe Biden was going to intervene in the case. Assange has reportedly suffered various health issues in prison and his immediate condition is not publicly known. But you can bet his return to Australia will be covered extensively.

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