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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange takes US plea deal, walks free

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was granted bail by the High Court in London and released from custody at Stansted Airport on Monday. This development followed his agreement to plead guilty to a charge of conspiring to disclose classified US national defense documents.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange takes US plea deal, walks free anr
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First Published Jun 25, 2024, 10:24 AM IST

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was released from Belmarsh prison in the UK on Monday. His release came after he was expected to plead guilty this week to charges of violating US espionage laws. This agreement concluded his imprisonment in the UK and enabled him to return to his home country of Australia. The 52-year-old agreed to admit guilt to a single charge of conspiring to disclose classified US national defense documents.

Assange had been held in the UK for five years, contesting extradition sought by the US for disclosing military secrets. In June 2022, the UK government authorized his extradition. He is set to appear in a US court on Wednesday (local time).

"Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of 24 June, after having spent 1901 days there", WikiLeaks tweeted.
WikiLeaks announced that Assange was granted bail by the High Court in London and subsequently released at Stansted Airport in the afternoon. He boarded a plane and departed the UK.

WikiLeaks said, "This is the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organisers, 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 finalised. We will provide more information as soon as possible."

The statement read, "After more than five years in a 2x3 metre 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."

"WikiLeaks published groundbreaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions. As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people's right to know," it said. 
 

He is anticipated to receive a 62-month prison sentence, which includes credit for the five years he spent incarcerated in the UK. As a result, he is poised to return to his homeland of Australia.

In 2010, WikiLeaks published a vast trove of classified US military documents from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, marking the largest security breaches in US military history. The release comprised over 700,000 documents, including diplomatic cables and battlefield reports.

Assange was indicted by a US federal grand jury in 2019 on 18 charges related to WikiLeaks' disclosure of national security documents.

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