Julian Assange Reaches Plea Deal, Leaves Prison

Wikileaks founder will return to Australia after sentencing, US filing says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 24, 2024 7:09 PM CDT
Updated Jun 25, 2024 12:00 AM CDT
Wikileaks Founder Reaches Plea Deal With US to End Battle
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in 2016.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will plead guilty to a felony charge in a deal with the Justice Department that will resolve a long-running legal saga that spanned multiple continents and centered on the publication of a trove of classified documents, according to court papers filed late Monday. Assange left a British prison on Monday and will appear later this week in the US federal court in the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the Western Pacific, to enter his plea on an Espionage Act charge of conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified national defense information, the AP reports.

The guilty plea, which needs a judge's approval, brings an abrupt conclusion to a criminal case of international intrigue and to the US government's yearslong pursuit of a publisher whose hugely popular secret-sharing website made him a cause célèbre among many press freedom advocates who said he acted as a journalist to expose US military wrongdoing. Investigators, by contrast, have repeatedly asserted that his actions broke laws meant to protect sensitive information and put the country's national security at risk.

The hearing, including sentencing, is scheduled for Wednesday morning local time in Saipan, the largest island in the Mariana Islands. The proceeding is being held there because of Assange's opposition to traveling to the continental US and the court's proximity to Australia, the defendant's home country. A letter filed with the court by the Justice Department says Assange will then return to his home country of Australia, per the Washington Post, suggesting he will be sentenced to the 62 months he has already spent behind bars. (More Julian Assange stories.)

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