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Julian Assange negotiates deal with the US and leaves London

Julian Assange negotiates deal with the US and leaves London
Julian Assange negotiates deal with the US and leaves London

Surprising turn in the Julian Assange trial: According to US court documents, the whistleblower will plead guilty. After that, he will be allowed to return to his homeland.

According to Wikileaks, after five years in prison in London, Assange was released from prison – unnoticed by the public – and left the UK. The portal published a video on Tuesday night that is said to show the 52-year-old boarding a plane at London’s Stansted Airport on Monday. There was initially no official confirmation from the British authorities. The background to this is a legal deal between Assange and the US justice system, which had previously insisted on the Australian being extradited to the United States – but now wants to refrain from doing so.

The deal with the USA

Assange negotiated an agreement with the US Department of Justice whereby he would partially plead guilty in the espionage scandal and in return be spared further imprisonment in the US, according to court documents published on Monday evening US Eastern Time. However, a court still has to approve the agreement. Assange is scheduled to appear in court in a remote US territory this Wednesday (local time): the Mariana Islands.

The archipelago is located in the western Pacific, north of Assange’s homeland of Australia, and is under US jurisdiction. A letter from the US Department of Justice states that the location was chosen because Assange did not want to travel to the United States and the archipelago is close to Australia. Assange is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy to illegally obtain and distribute secret documents at the court hearing on Wednesday. He is then expected to travel on to Australia. According to US media, Assange is to be sentenced to just over five years in prison – which he has already served in Great Britain. He would therefore soon be a free man.

The allegations against Julian Assange

The USA had previously demanded Assange’s extradition. They accuse him of stealing and publishing secret material from military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan with whistleblower Chelsea Manning, thereby endangering the lives of US informants. Assange’s supporters, on the other hand, believe that he is in the sights of the Washington judiciary for exposing US war crimes. If convicted without an agreement with the prosecution, Assange could face up to 175 years in prison for espionage.

Wikileaks wrote on X that there had been long negotiations with the US Department of Justice. The agreement reached has not yet been finalized. After more than five years “in a two by three meter cell in which he was isolated for 23 hours a day,” Assange will soon be reunited with his wife Stella Assange and their two children, “who so far only know their father behind bars.”

The odyssey of the Wikileaks founder

Assange began his sentence in the high-security Belmarsh prison in London about five years ago. Before his arrest in April 2019, he had evaded the reach of law enforcement authorities for seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. They had initially targeted him on rape allegations in Sweden. However, these charges were later dropped due to a lack of evidence. Human rights organizations, journalists’ associations, artists and politicians have long been calling for Assange’s immediate release.

The Australian government had also campaigned for the release of its citizen. US President Joe Biden recently raised some hope in this direction. When asked whether the US would consider an Australian request to drop the prosecution against Assange, he said: “We are considering it.” So while there were signs of a possible political solution, the timing was surprising.

Assange recently filed an appeal in the UK against his extradition to the USA. The case was actually supposed to be heard in July by the High Court in London. The High Court partially granted Assange’s request in May, thus preventing the 52-year-old from being immediately extradited to the USA.

The “new phase of freedom”

Stella Assange called on supporters to help her husband after his release. “We intend to set up an emergency fund for Julian’s health and recovery,” she said in a video clip that was published on YouTube on Tuesday night. Assange’s team had recently repeatedly warned that the Wikileaks founder’s health was poor. He therefore did not attend court hearings in person.

“I ask you, if you can, to contribute and help us transition to this new phase of Julian’s freedom,” Stella Assange continued. The video was reportedly recorded on June 19. Wikileaks boss Kristinn Hrafnsson said in it: “If you see this, it means he is out.”

The mother of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has thanked the many supporters who have campaigned for the Australian for years. “I am grateful that my son’s ordeal is finally coming to an end,” Australian broadcaster ABC quoted Christine Assange as saying on Tuesday. “This shows how important and powerful quiet diplomacy is.” According to Wikileaks, Assange has already left the UK.

“Many have taken advantage of my son’s situation to pursue their own agenda, so I am grateful to the invisible, hard-working people who have put Julian’s well-being above all else,” Christine Assange continued. “The last 14 years have obviously taken a toll on me as a mother, so I would like to thank you in advance for respecting my privacy.”

Assange’s father John Shipton told the ABC that everything indicates that his son will be able to return to Australia: “As far as I understand, Julian will be able to lead a normal life with his family and his wife Stella.” Shipton thanked all supporters and especially Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. The head of government, who had campaigned for a solution to the case, has not yet made any public statements.

Source: Stern

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