Julian Assange to Be Freed After Five Years in Prison Following US Plea Deal

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been released from Belmarsh Prison in the United Kingdom after reaching a plea agreement with U.S. prosecutors. This deal marks the end of a prolonged legal battle that has seen Assange incarcerated for five years.

Assange, who has been a controversial figure due to his role in publishing classified U.S. military documents, is set to plead guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to unlawfully obtain and disseminate national defense information. The plea hearing is scheduled to take place in a federal court in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the Western Pacific, on Wednesday morning local time.

Details of the Plea Deal

Under the terms of the agreement, Assange will be credited for the 62 months he has already served in the UK, effectively nullifying any additional jail time in the United States. This deal allows Assange to avoid further imprisonment and return to his home country, Australia, immediately after the hearing.

The charges against Assange stem from his collaboration with Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, to release a trove of classified documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as sensitive State Department cables. These disclosures led to his indictment under the Espionage Act during the Trump administration.

Political and Legal Implications

The plea deal has been influenced by significant lobbying from Australian leaders and human rights organizations, who have argued that the prolonged nature of Assange’s case and his role as a publisher set a dangerous precedent for press freedom. President Joe Biden had previously indicated a willingness to consider such requests, which likely played a role in the final agreement.

Assange’s release has been met with mixed reactions. Supporters, including his wife Stella Assange, have expressed immense gratitude for the global campaign that led to his freedom. “Julian is free!!!!” Stella wrote on social media, thanking everyone who supported their cause.

A Long Legal Saga

Assange’s legal troubles began in 2010 when he was arrested in the UK over allegations of sexual assault in Sweden, which were later dropped. To avoid extradition, he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he remained for seven years. In 2019, he was arrested again and has since been held in Belmarsh Prison while fighting extradition to the U.S.

The plea deal brings an abrupt conclusion to a case that has captivated global attention and sparked debates over government transparency and the limits of press freedom. As Assange prepares to return to Australia, the implications of his case will likely continue to resonate in discussions about the balance between national security and the public’s right to know.