Explained: What is Julian Assange’s plea deal with Biden govt in espionage case?

  • Julian Assange will plead guilty to the charges under the Espionage Act for releasing classified US national defence documents under the plea deal with the Joe Biden government. The WikiLeaks founder will also be sentenced but not sent to jail. LiveMint explains why

Chanchal
Updated25 Jun 2024, 02:35 PM IST
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been released from London jail
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been released from London jail(AFP)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was freed on Tuesday, June 25, from London jail where he spent five years fighting extradition to the United States for releasing secret government documents in 2010. Ending the nearly 14-year-old legal battle, Julian Assange was released after he struck a plea deal with the United States Justice Department, buying his way to freedom. Julian Assange is expected to return to his native Australia after completion of the plea deal he has struck with the Joe Biden government.

After his plea deal, Julian Assange took an airplane for an unnamed location. In a statement on X, WikiLeaks said, “Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of 24 June, after having spent 1901 days there. 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.”

Heralding him as an advocate of free speech, the organisation said Julian Assange spent 1,901 days of captivity in a 2x3 metre cell, “isolated 23 hours a day.” It also released a video of Julian Assange boarding a flight to depart London.

What did Joe Biden government's plea deal entail to pave way for his release?

Under the plea deal, Julian Assange will plead guilty to the charges under the Espionage Act and go free. The charge that he has to plead guilty to is conspiring to “unlawfully obtain and release” classified US national defence documents.

Pleading guilty to the charge in the espionage case will end the US pursuit of Julian Assange in the nearly 14-year-old battle that began when WikiLeaks published thousands of documents on Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Also Read | Assange, Justice Department exploring guilty plea to end 14-year legal drama

A filing from the US Department of Justice to the US district court stated: “….we anticipate that the defendant will plead guilty to the charge in the Information of conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified information relating to the national defense of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 793(g), and be sentenced by the Court for that offense.”

 

Filing from the US Department of Justice to the US district court

Fighting extradition to the US for years, Julian Assange will be travelling to the country for a day and appear US District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands to enter his guilty plea. The hearing is likely to happen later this week.

Will Julian Assange be jailed again?

Julian Assange will be sentenced at the hearing but might not be further sent to jail. Under the agreement, pending approval by a judge, the WikiLeaks founder is expected to receive credit for the five years that he has already served at the London jail and will not be sentenced to prison time further.

Once Julian Assange is sentenced, he will travel back to Australia and join his family.

Also Read | Julian Assange’s fight for freedom is far from over

Why did WikiLeaks reveal in 2010?

In one of the major security breaches in the history of the US, WikiLeaks published thousands of classified documents on the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also released a video featuring a US military aircraft and some Iraqi civilians being killed in Baghdad. The incident also killed two journalists.

US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who helped Julian Assange in obtaining the classified documents, was sentenced to 35 years in jail. Her sentencing was commuted by then President Barack Obama. He holed up for seven years at the London embassy in Ecuador amid an investigation by Swedish authorities into claims of sexual misconduct that he has long denied and that was later dropped. He was later taken into the UK custody where he spent five years in jail until his release today, June 25, 2024.

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First Published:25 Jun 2024, 02:35 PM IST
HomeNewsExplained: What is Julian Assange’s plea deal with Biden govt in espionage case?

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