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HomeWorld NewsWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange walks free from US court after plea deal

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange walks free from US court after plea deal

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange walks through the US Federal Courthouse in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, on June 26, 2024. — AFP
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange walks through the US Federal Courthouse in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, on June 26, 2024. — AFP  
  • Judge says ‘you will be able to walk out a free man’.
  • Assange pleads guilty to single count of conspiracy to disseminate national defence information.
  • Australian ambassador to the US Kevin Rudd attended hearing. 

SAIPAN: A US judge has released Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, following a plea deal that concluded a lengthy legal battle.

The 52-year-old Wikileaks founder faced charges for publishing classified military documents, long sought by the US for revealing sensitive information.

The judge in the Northern Mariana Islands, a Pacific US territory, said, “With this pronouncement, it appears that you will be able to walk out of this courtroom a free man.” Assange had pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate national defence information.

“Working as a journalist, I encouraged my source to provide material that was said to be classified,” he admitted.

Assange, dressed in a black suit and brown tie, appeared tired but relaxed. He shared a brief laugh with Kevin Rudd, the Australian ambassador to the US, during a break. The courtroom was packed with journalists and locals, some wearing colourful Hawaiian shirts.

Assange was sentenced to five years and two months in prison but received credit for time served in a British prison. He had been released from the high-security Belmarsh prison in London on Monday.

The Northern Mariana Islands was chosen for the hearing due to Assange’s reluctance to enter the continental US and its proximity to Australia. Assange will fly to Canberra, Australia, after the hearing, WikiLeaks announced on social media platform X. The plea bargain, they noted, “should never have had to happen.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed the plea deal, stating it was a “welcome development” after his government argued that Assange’s case had “dragged on for too long” with “nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration.”

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