WikilLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves UK after striking plea deal with Biden administration

Jun 25, 2024

London [UK], June 25 : WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has agreed to enter a plea deal with the Joe Biden administration that could pave the way for him to avoid imprisonment in the United States, according to recently filed federal court documents, CNN reported.
The WikiLeaks founder has reportedly consented to plead guilty to a felony charge connected to his alleged involvement in one of the largest breaches of classified US government material.
This agreement, if approved by a federal judge, would see Assange receiving a 62-month sentence, which matches the duration he has already served in London's high-security Belmarsh prison while contesting extradition to the US. The plea deal includes crediting his time served, potentially allowing Assange to immediately return to his native Australia.
Assange's release from Belmarsh was confirmed by WikiLeaks, who announced on Tuesday that he had been granted bail by the High Court in London and subsequently departed from Stansted airport. A video posted by the organisation showed Assange boarding a plane after leaving the UK, as reported by CNN.
According to the US District Court in the Northern Mariana Islands, a plea hearing and sentencing have been scheduled for Wednesday morning. Prosecutors explained to the court that Assange preferred not to set foot in the continental US for his guilty plea, hence the choice of venue near Australia, where he intends to return following the court proceedings.
The Justice Department prosecutors anticipate Assange will plead guilty to the charge and be sentenced accordingly. Assange had been sought by US authorities for publishing confidential military records leaked by Chelsea Manning between 2010 and 2011. He faced 18 counts from a 2019 indictment related to the breach, which carried a potential maximum sentence of up to 175 years in prison, although it was unlikely he would receive the full term.
US officials alleged Assange had actively encouraged Manning to obtain extensive amounts of unfiltered US diplomatic cables, potentially endangering confidential sources, as well as significant Iraq war-related reports and Guantanamo Bay detainee information, according to CNN.
President Joe Biden had hinted at a potential deal, supported by Australian government officials, to facilitate Assange's return to Australia. However, FBI and Justice Department officials insisted that any agreement include a felony guilty plea by Assange, according to sources familiar with the matter cited by CNN.
Last month, a UK court ruled in Assange's favour, granting him the right to appeal his final challenge against extradition to the US. This decision marked a significant victory for Assange after years of legal battles aimed at avoiding prosecution in the United States for the charges levelled against him.
Assange's case has drawn international attention and sparked debates over freedom of the press, government transparency, and the legal implications of publishing classified information. His journey from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he sought asylum for seven years, to incarceration in Belmarsh, and now potentially to a plea deal and return to Australia, has been closely followed by supporters, critics, and legal experts alike, CNN reported.