“Immense gratitude”: reactions to Julian Assange’s release multiply

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Suddenly, Julian Assange’s face appears on his wife’s phone. For the first time since 2019, the legendary white-haired, shaggy-bearded Australian was able to call his family as a free man – or almost. Prosecuted for exposing hundreds of thousands of confidential documents, the 52-year-old whistleblower left Belmarsh high-security prison near London on Tuesday, June 24, where he had been incarcerated for 1,901 days.

A 13-second video, which has already gone viral, shows the WikiLeaks founder boarding a private plane bound for a US federal court in the Pacific, where he is due to plead guilty on Wednesday morning to a deal that will allow him to regain his freedom. Now facing a single charge (“conspiracy to obtain and disclose information relating to national defense”), he is expected to be sentenced to sixty-two months in prison, already served in pre-trial detention, which would allow him to return to his native Australia. There he will be reunited with his wife, Stella Assange, and their two children, who only knew their father behind bars. According to sources close to the case, a discreet Australian-American-British diplomatic ballet would have helped to resolve this case.

“Secret diplomacy”

This agreement, which puts an end to a trying fourteen-year saga, has provoked many reactions around the world. “Julian is free!!!! Words cannot express our immense gratitude to YOU ​​– yes YOU, who have all mobilized for years and years to make this happen. THANK YOU. Thank you. THANK YOU,” his wife exulted on X, according to whom “the priority now is for Julian to regain his health.” She also launched an appeal for donations to pay the $520,000 (€485,000) that her husband must reimburse the Australian government for the charter of the plane that will take him to Australia. The whistleblower’s mother, Christine Assange, said for her part that she was “grateful that [her] son’s ordeal is finally coming to an end. This shows the importance and power of quiet diplomacy.”

WikiLeaks, founded by Julian Assange in 2006 and which publishes classified documents, welcomed the result of a “global campaign that brought together grassroots organizers, press freedom activists, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations,” saying that “Julian has paid dearly for these principles and for the people’s right to know.”

Held in the Ecuadorian embassy in London from 2012 to 2019, the Australian spent five long years in a two-by-three-meter cell, isolated for twenty-three hours a day, according to WikiLeaks. His relatives have long described him as very physically diminished, while his defense has constantly warned of the risk that he would commit suicide. Julian Assange was fighting not to be extradited to the United States, where he theoretically faced 175 years in prison. “The moment we have been waiting for has finally arrived,” Amnesty International responded. “Julian Assange is on his way to freedom. The fight for press freedom continues.”

Happy ending

The UN also welcomed the end of the whistleblower’s imprisonment: “Julian Assange’s increasingly prolonged detention has raised concerns,” said Elizabeth Throssell, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “We will continue to monitor developments in the coming days.”

Reporters Without Borders, which also worked for the cyberactivist’s release, said its members were “extremely relieved that these proceedings have finally ended. This is a victory for journalism and press freedom.” The Australian government commented on this happy ending, saying that the Assange case had “dragged on for too long” and that his continued detention was no longer of any interest.

This article is originally published on liberation.fr

 

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