Julian Assange Takes Espionage Plea Deal, Returns to Australia a Free Man


UPDATE 6/26: Julian Assange has pled guilty to one count of illegally obtaining and circulating US national security information as part of his plea deal. Afterward, he flew to Australia, landing in the southern city of Canberra at approximately 7:30 p.m. AEST Wednesday night, which is 5:30 a.m. ET Wednesday.

Assange’s wife and WikiLeaks are still trying to raise funds to cover the costs of the pricey chartered flights that took him home, and have raised over $445,000 so far.

In a statement, the US federal government stands by its allegations that Assange’s activities were illegal and posed a grave risk to those who names were revealed in the trove of documents WikiLeaks shared.

“The State Department cables that WikiLeaks disseminated included information from journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents who had chosen to provide information to the United States in confidence at significant risk to their own safety. By publicly releasing these documents without redacting the names of human sources or other identifying information, Assange subjected these individuals to serious harm and arbitrary detention,” the Justice Department wrote.


Original Story 6/25: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose organization published troves of classified documents about the CIA, Guantanamo Bay, and other US agencies and groups back in the 2010s, was released from prison in the UK on Monday.

Assange boarded a private plane headed for a US court in Saipan, the capital of the remote US commonwealth Northern Mariana Islands, where he is expected to agree to a plea deal.

In Saipan, Assange may plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information, which is part of the US Espionage Act. The filing alleges that Assange received and communicated US documents “classified up to the SECRET level” to persons “not entitled to receive them.”

Assange lived at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for years, but was eventually arrested and imprisoned in the UK in 2019. That year, the US had prepared an 18-count indictment against Assange with a possible 175-year prison sentence and then expanded its scope in 2020. Assange had been imprisoned in the UK for 1,901 days—over five years—before his release this week, the WikiLeaks X account noted Monday alongside a video of Assange.

After the Saipan court appearance, the WikiLeaks founder is expected to fly back to his home country of Australia. As PCMag noted in 2017, it’s unlikely Assange will be sent to the US mainland. In March, the UK’s High Court emphasized that it did not want Assange to face a possible death sentence in the US, and insisted on a fair trial.

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“Regardless of the views that people have about Mr. Assange’s activities, the case has dragged on for too long. There is nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration, and we want him brought home to Australia,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a Monday video.

Assange’s plane was approximately halfway between Bangkok and Saipan as of 1 p.m. ET Tuesday. But flying private doesn’t come cheap. Assange was forced to take the chartered plane and will owe over half a million dollars to the US for the flights, the WikiLeaks account shared Tuesday. Assange’s allies are now fundraising to help pay for the pricey flights—and have already raised over $110,000 at time of writing.

Earlier this year, the US sentenced an ex-CIA software developer, Joshua Schulte, to 40 years in prison for his involvement in sharing CIA documents with WikiLeaks.

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