Sports

Julian Assange set to be released after reaching plea deal with US government

Julian Assange set to be released after reaching plea deal with US government

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange plans to plead guilty as part of a plea deal with the US Justice Department that which could see him walk free and bring an end to a long-running legal saga that spanned multiple continents.

Assange was charged with conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information, new court documents show.

According to the documents, he is scheduled to appear in the federal court in the Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the Western Pacific, on Wednesday morning, and will plead guilty to an Espionage Act charge of conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified national defense information, the DOJ said.

The charges against Assange in the US stem from one of the largest publications of classified information in American history, which took place during the first term of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Assange was accused by the US government of conspiring with Chelsea Manning, a military intelligence analyst, to disclose tens of thousands of activity reports about the war in Afghanistan. The documents also included unfiltered US diplomatic cables that potentially endangered confidential sources, Iraq war-related significant activity reports and information related to Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The information leaks occurred from around 2009 to 2011, the documents said.

The charges against Assange in the US stem from one of the largest publications of classified information in American history
The charges against Assange in the US stem from one of the largest publications of classified information in American history (AP)

The information was shared online on Assange’s WikiLeaks website.

The new deal will allow Assange to avoid imprisonment in the US. Prosecutors will seek a 62-month sentence – the same amount of time he has already served in the high-security prison Belmarsh, in London, while fighting extradition to the US.

Last month, he won the right to appeal an extradition order after his lawyers argued that the US government provided “blatantly inadequate” assurances that he would have the same free speech protections as an American citizen if extradited from the UK.

Prior to that Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 and was granted political asylum after courts in England ruled he should be extradited to Sweden as part of a rape investigation in the Scandinavian country.

He was arrested by British police after Ecuador’s government withdrew his asylum status in 2019 and then jailed for skipping bail when he first took shelter inside the embassy. Sweden eventually dropped its sex crimes investigation because so much time had elapsed.

Assange’s family and supporters have said his physical and mental health have suffered massively during more than a decade of legal battles.

Stella Assange, the wife of Julian Assange, gives a statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, after he won a bid at the High Court to bring an appeal against his extradition to the US
Stella Assange, the wife of Julian Assange, gives a statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, after he won a bid at the High Court to bring an appeal against his extradition to the US (PA Wire)

If approved by a federal judge, the new plea deal would credit that time served, allowing Assange to immediately return to Australia, his native country.

Assange has been heralded by many around the world as a hero who brought to light military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the files published by WikiLeaks was a video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack by American forces in Baghdad that killed 11 people, including two Reuters journalists.

But his reputation was also tarnished by rape allegations, which he has denied.

The plea agreement comes months after President Joe Biden said he was considering a request from Australia to drop the US push to prosecute Assange.

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison after being convicted of violating the Espionage Act and other offenses for leaking classified government and military documents to WikiLeaks. President Obama commuted her sentence in 2017, allowing her release after about seven behind bars.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button