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Julian Assange Makes Plea Deal with U.S. to End Long Legal Battle

Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has agreed to a plea deal with the U.S. government, which will end a long-running international issue about his handling of national security secrets.

  • Assange will plead guilty to one charge of conspiring to get and reveal national defense information.
  • It will take place in a U.S. federal court in Saipan, part of the Northern Mariana Islands, this week, according to court documents.
  • Assange will get a 62-month sentence as part of the deal that will match the time he has already spent in Belmarsh Prison in the UK while fighting extradition to the U.S.
  • After the court proceedings, he is expected to be released and return to Australia, his home country.

Australian leaders have been asking the Biden administration to drop the case against Assange for years. President Biden mentioned in April that American authorities were considering this option.

In 2019, a federal grand jury in Virginia charged Assange with espionage and computer misuse. The Justice Department said it was one of the largest leaks of classified information in U.S. history. The charges were about Assange working with Chelsea Manning, a former military private, to get and publish secret reports about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables. Prosecutors said Assange published these materials on WikiLeaks without removing sensitive information, putting many people at risk.

Former Assistant Attorney General John Demers said at the time that no responsible person would publish the names of confidential sources in war zones, as it could endanger their lives. Manning was arrested in 2010 and served seven years in prison before President Obama commuted her sentence.

Assange’s case drew support from human rights and journalism groups like Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists. They were worried that the Espionage Act case against Assange could set a precedent for charging journalists with national security crimes.

Assange’s legal troubles have been complex, as he had to spend 7 years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for sexual assault allegations. The Swedish police later dropped the charges, but the UK government arrested him for violating bail. Later, the U.S. sought to extradite him which led him to lengthy court battles. This plea deal prevents further legal proceedings about his extradition, which were set for early July.