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Assange Released from Prison After Agreeing To Plead Guilty to Espionage Act Violation

by | Jun 25, 2024

Assange Released from Prison After Agreeing To Plead Guilty to Espionage Act Violation

by | Jun 25, 2024

rueda de prensa conjunta entre canciller ricardo patiÑo y julian assange (cropped)

The plea bargain allows the Wikileaks founder to return to Australia after a court date in the Mariana Islands

WikiLeaks reports that its founder, Julian Assange, was released from UK prison on bail and is in the process of returning to Australia. Court documents filed by the US Justice Department indicate that he has accepted an agreement with Washington that will see the journalist enter a guilty plea to crimes under the Espionage Act.

WikiLeaks published the following statement on X:

“Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of 24 June, after having spent 1901 days there. He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stanstead airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK. 

This is the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organizers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations. This created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice, leading to a deal that has not yet been formally finalized. We will provide more information as soon as possible. 

After more than five years in a 2×3 meter cell, isolated 23 hours a day, he will soon reunite with his wife, Stella Assange, and their children, who have only known their father from behind bars.”

Court documents dated Tuesday that were filed in the district of the Northern Mariana Islands show Assange, in exchange for his freedom, will plead guilty to crimes that violated the Espionage Act.

NBC News reports that the journalist will first be transferred from the UK’s Belmarsh Prison to the Pacific Island US territory. From there, he will enter a guilty plea and be sentenced to 62 months in prison, which he has already served. After the proceedings, Assange will return to Australia.

The plea agreement ends an over-decade-long saga for the journalist that began in 2010 when he published troves of documents provided to him by Pvt. Chelsea Manning. Manning was convicted in 2013 under the Espionage Act and sentenced to 35 years in prison before President Obama reduced the term to seven years.

In 2012, Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid imprisonment in a US or UK jail, where he remained for seven years. In 2019, the US charged him with violations of the Espionage Act, and he was expelled from the embassy. From British courtrooms, Assange has spent the past five years battling Washington’s extradition request.

The changes were historic as the US had previously only sought to criminally punish individuals who leak information, not the journalists who publish that information. Prior to the plea agreement, Assange was facing 175 years in prison.

Civil rights groups have argued that charging publishers for violating the Espionage Act is a violation of the First Amendment. Receiving and publishing classified information is considered a standard journalistic practice.

The journalist is 52 years-old and is suffering from multiple health issues. His supporters have warned that he would not survive American prison. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found in 2016 that Assange had been arbitrarily deprived of his freedom since his first arrest on December 7, 2010. In 2019, Nils Melzer, then the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, said Assange had been subjected to “psychological torture.”

As the founder of WikiLeaks, Assange published some of the most important and revealing information about the crimes and corruption within the US government. The 2010 Cablegate leakers revealed a multitude of US war crimes committed during the Iraq and Afghan wars.

Assange’s family and team are touting the plea agreement as a victory that came in part because of the tireless activism from his supporters.

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Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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