Assange and US Justice Department discussing guilty plea, report says

The US Justice Department is reportedly considering permitting Julian Assange to enter a guilty plea to a reduced charge of mishandling classified information.

Over the past few months, preliminary talks regarding a plea deal have taken place between officials at the Justice Department and Assange’s legal team, The Wall Street Journal reported, based on sources familiar with the matter.

However, these discussions were still evolving and there’s a possibility that they “remain in flux and the talks could fizzle”.

A lesser charge related to mishandling of classified information could enable Assange to plead to the misdemeanor remotely, potentially allowing him to avoid extradition to the US, where he has been wanted for years, and to walk free without having to travel to America.

An attorney representing the WikiLeaks founder stated that his legal representatives have not seen any indication that the Justice Department intends to resolve the case.

In a statement emailed to Reuters, Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollack wrote: “It is inappropriate for Mr Assange’s lawyers to comment while his case is before the UK High Court other than to say we have been given no indication that the Department of Justice intends to resolve the case and the United States is continuing with as much determination as ever to seek his extradition on all 18 charges, exposing him to 175 years in prison.”

US prosecutors have earlier said it would be no more than 63 months.

Assange is fighting against extradition from Britain to the US, where he faces criminal charges for the 2010 release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables. The US argues that the publication of these documents endangered lives.

However, Assange’s supporters contend that he is being persecuted for revealing US misconduct, particularly in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Various human rights organisations, major media outlets, and leaders from countries including Mexico, Brazil, and Australia have called for the charges against Assange, an Australian citizen, to be dismissed.

Since 2019, Assange has been held in a UK prison following his arrest by London police at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he was taken into custody on charges from the US.

Additional reporting with agencies

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