Julian Assange is “free” after an agreement with the American justice system

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The whistleblower signed a plea agreement with the US justice system. He had been incarcerated since 2019 for having made public classified American documents.

Julian Assange is “free” and left the United Kingdom on Monday on a plane after negotiating a plea deal with the American justice system which was seeking his extradition, his organization, WikiLeaks, announced.

Prosecuted for having exposed hundreds of thousands of confidential documents, this 52-year-old Australian must appear Wednesday at 9 a.m. local time (1 a.m. Paris time) before a federal court in the Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Pacific, according to court documents made public during the night of Monday to Tuesday.

Plead guilty

“Julian Assange is free” and has left the United Kingdom and the high-security prison near London where he has been incarcerated since 2019, to board a private plane at Stansted Airport, WikiLeaks said shortly after, welcoming the fact that he could be reunited with his wife, Stella Assange, and their children, “the result of a global campaign.”

The organization then released a 13-second video in which he can be seen climbing the stairs of the plane. The plane is expected in Bangkok on Tuesday around 11:50 a.m. (6:50 a.m. in Paris) to refuel and refuel. It is then due to take off again for Saipan, in the Mariana Islands, around 9 p.m. (4 p.m. in Paris).

Now charged with “conspiracy to obtain and disclose information relating to national defense,” Julian Assange is expected to plead guilty to this single charge, according to the court documents made public, which also name his accomplice, American military officer Chelsea Manning, who was behind this massive leak.

62 months in prison

He is expected to be sentenced to 62 months in prison, already served in pre-trial detention in London, which would allow him to return to his native Australia as a free man.

“Julian is free!!!,” his wife Stella Assange exulted, expressing “immense gratitude” to those who have campaigned “for years” to make his release a “reality.” “I am grateful that my son’s ordeal is finally coming to an end. It shows the importance and power of quiet diplomacy,” his mother, Christine Assange, said in a statement carried by Australian media. “Many have used my son’s situation to advance their own cause. So I am grateful to the hardworking, invisible people who put Julian’s well-being first,” she added.

The Australian government also commented on the outcome, saying that Assange’s case had “dragged on for far too long” and that his continued detention was no longer of any interest. The deal ends a nearly 14-year saga. It came as the British courts were due to examine, on July 9 and 10, an appeal by Julian Assange against his extradition to the United States, approved by the UK government in June 2022.

Facing 175 years in prison

He was fighting to avoid being handed over to the American justice system, which is pursuing him for having made public since 2010 more than 700,000 confidential documents on American military and diplomatic activities, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among these documents is a video showing civilians, including two journalists from the Reuters agency, killed by fire from a US combat helicopter in Iraq in July 2007. Faced with 18 charges, he theoretically faced up to 175 years in prison under the Espionage Act.

Chelsea Manning was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years in prison by a court martial, but was released after seven years after her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama. In the latest twist in this long-running case that has become a symbol for his supporters of the threats to press freedom, two British judges granted Julian Assange the right to appeal his extradition in May. The appeal was to focus on whether he would benefit from freedom of expression protections as a foreigner in the American legal system. The WikiLeaks founder was arrested by British police in April 2019 after seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, in order to avoid extradition to Sweden in a rape investigation that was dismissed that same year. Since then, calls have grown for US President Joe Biden to drop the charges against him. Australia made a formal request to do so in February, which Mr Biden has said he is considering, raising hopes among his supporters.

This article is originally published on dna.fr

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