After 13 years, Julian Assange walks free

Jun 25, 2024
A still taken from a video released by Wikileaks shows, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange heading to board a plane at Stansted airport, London, Britain, 25 June 2024. According to court filings in the US district court for the Northern Mariana Islands, US prosecutors said they anticipate Assange will plead guilty to the criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified documents relating to the national defence of the United States. A statement posted by WikiLeaks on the social media platform 'X' said Assange was freed from Belmarsh maximum security prison in the United Kingdom on the morning of 24 June, after having spent 1,901 days there. He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted Airport during the afternoon. He then boarded a plane and departed the UK to return to Australia. His wife Stella confirmed on X that 'Julian is free' and thanked supporters. Image: EPA/WIKILEAKS/HANDOUT

Julian Assange is expected to be in Australia late tomorrow, a free man.

Footage tweeted by Wikileaks hours ago showed Assange walking up the stairs onto an aircraft bound for Saipan in the US-administered Mariana Islands, Monday afternoon UK time.

Sources have told Pearls and Irritations Assange is accompanied on the flight by Australian High Commissioner to the UK Stephen Smith. Australia’s Ambassador to the US Kevin Rudd is also “providing important assistance”, indicating nothing is being left to chance.

His wife Stella and their children are said to be on a flight to Australia and, along with other family, will be present to meet Assange on his arrival.

A hearing is scheduled for 9am on Wednesday in Saipan, where Assange will agree to plead guilty to one count under the Espionage Act, of “conspiracy to disseminate national defence information”.

The charge describes normal investigative NatSec journalism, but according to a US Constitutional lawyer it will not create a legal precedent because the agreement is the subject of a plea deal rather than a conviction following a trial.

If all goes to plan, it will bring to a close 13 years of persecution and prosecution of one form or another, of the man who developed an anonymous way for whistleblowers to upload information – an option now offered by almost all major mainstream media outlets.

Those of us who have followed the case closely throughout that time and know Assange have anticipated he would not agree to go to the United States, nor to anything that would result in setting a precedent that criminalises journalism. Additional time in prison would have been a travesty.

Credit where it’s due – none of this may have happened without Albanese, and credit to those who persisted and brokered the deal.

 

For more on this topic, P&I recommends:

Wikileaks: Julian Assange – Arriving in Bangkok

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