Assange leaves UK prison to finalize plea deal with US (VIDEO)
Assange leaves UK prison to finalize plea deal with US (VIDEO)

The Australian-born activist is expected to strike a deal with the US Department of Justice, court documents say

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has been released from a UK prison on Tuesday morning, his team has said. He has spent five years in the Belmarsh Prison in London while fighting extradition to the US, where he was indicted on 18 counts of disseminating classified information.

According to the newly filed court documents, Assange will strike a plea deal in order to avoid further time behind bars.

“Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of 24 June, after having spent 1901 days there,” WikiLeaks wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.”

WikiLeaks said that the international campaign to free Assange has created “the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice, leading to a deal that has not yet been formally finalized.” 

“As he returns to Australia, we thank all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom,” WikiLeaks wrote.

According to a letter from the DOJ, Assange will appear in court in Sapian, in the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Pacific, at 9 am local time on Wednesday. “We anticipate that the defendant will plead guilty to the charge… of conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified information relating to the national defense of the United States,” the letter said. 

The DOJ said it expects Assange to return to his home country of Australia after the proceedings.

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Assange secures big win in US extradition hearing: How it happened

Under Assange’s helm, WikiLeaks published multiple top secret files, including documents related to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well a trove of US diplomatic cables. In 2010, the organization published a video of a US military helicopter attacking civilians in Baghdad in 2007 after mistaking them for insurgents.

Fearing extradition to the US, Assange spent seven years hiding inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He was ejected from the premises in 2019, when Ecuador revoked his asylum status. The activist was immediately arrested by British police and subsequently spent five years in Belmarsh after being found guilty of jumping bail.

Assange’s legal team, family and associates have repeatedly described the conditions in Belmarsh as “torture” and warned that his health had significantly deteriorated behind bars.

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