Written by Ashton Snyder on
 July 5, 2024

Assange Wins Freedom Via Plea Deal With U.S.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange secured his release following a plea deal with U.S. authorities.

According to Fox News, Assange's plea agreement allows him to avoid additional prison time in the U.S. and return to his home in Australia.

On Wednesday, Assange pleaded guilty to a felony charge in the Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands federal court. This plea deal led to his sentencing of time served by U.S. District Judge Ramona Manglona.

Judge Manglona acknowledged the severity of Assange's previous incarceration in the U.K., remarking that it factored into her decision to accept the plea agreement. She stated that the prolonged nature of his detention and the lack of physical harm caused by his actions influenced her judgment.

Assange’s Long Imprisonment Comes to an End

Assange had been held at Belmarsh Prison in London since April 2019 before being flown to Saipan on a chartered flight to face U.S. charges. The charges included 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, stemming from WikiLeaks' 2010 release of classified U.S. documents leaked by Chelsea Manning.

The documents publicly detailed alleged war crimes and instances of torture by the U.S. government. As part of the plea deal, Assange agreed to destroy any classified information that had been provided to WikiLeaks.

The Justice Department disclosed the plea arrangement on Monday night. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia expressed his relief and support for the judgment, emphasizing that Assange's continued incarceration served no purpose.

Mixed Reactions to Plea Deal

Stella Assange, Julian's wife, expressed her relief regarding the deal, stating that it had been a tense period for the family, with uncertainty about whether the agreement would go through. Assange’s attorney, Jennifer Robinson, also expressed immense satisfaction that Assange can now reunite with his family in Australia.

Seth Stern, head of advocacy at the Freedom of the Press Foundation, criticized the prosecution yet acknowledged that ending the legal pursuit was a relief. Ben Wizner, who leads the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, shared similar sentiments, stressing that the activities Assange admitted to are fundamental to investigative journalism.

Judge Manglona emphasized the temporal aspect of her decision, suggesting that her view of the case might have been different had it occurred closer to when the acts were initially committed. Her remarks about the absence of a personal victim reinforced the decision. She reminded the court that it's 2024, implying the lengthy duration of proceedings weighed heavily on her mind.

Global Implications of Assange's Case

President Obama had previously refrained from charging Assange for the 2010 leaks. This was consistent with his commutation of Chelsea Manning's sentence in January 2017.

Looking forward, Assange’s return to Australia is welcomed by supporters who view this outcome as a victory for free speech and press freedom. Meanwhile, critics continue to reflect on the broader implications for national security and the boundaries of investigative journalism.

In summary, Julian Assange’s guilty plea ends his imprisonment and extradition battle, steadfastly supported by prominent figures in advocacy and politics. He leaves behind a contentious legacy that sparks ongoing debate in journalism and national security circles.

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About Ashton Snyder

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