Julian Assange free: A look at the timeline of the 14-year-long Wikileaks espionage case

Julian Assange was released from London prison after striking a plea deal with US Justice Department in a 14-year-old espionage case. Assange, the figurehead of WikiLeaks, has faced legal battles and extradition attempts for years, we take a look.

Livemint
Updated25 Jun 2024, 07:26 AM IST
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange walks to board a plane at a location given as London, Britain, in this still image from video released on June 25, 2024.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange walks to board a plane at a location given as London, Britain, in this still image from video released on June 25, 2024.(@wikileaks via X / Handout via Reuters)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been freed from a London jail after striking a plea deal with United States Justice Department in a nearly 14-year-old espionage case. The case centred around the publication of a number of classified defence documents and the exposing of government secrets by Assange and his foundation called WikiLeaks.

Later this week, Assange is expected to appear in a US Federal Court in the Mariana Islands and plead guilty. As per the deal, he will plead guilty to unlawfully obtaining classified national defence information on June 26.

Once done, Assange will walk free, ending the prolonged legal battle, a filing by the US Justice Department showed.

Also Read | WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange released after plea deal with US in espionage case

Who Is Julian Assange?

Julian Assange, born in Townsville, Queensland (Australia) in 1971, is the 52-year-old founder of WikiLeaks. This non-profit, whistleblowing website has been instrumental in exposing government secrets worldwide, making Assange a prominent figure in the world of information transparency.

It is most notably for its explosive leak of US military files related to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He has spent more than a decade either in custody or holed up in Ecuador's London embassy, trying to avoid extradition — first to Sweden to answer allegations of rape, and then to the US for alleged espionage.

He had a peripatetic childhood and claims to have attended 37 schools before settling in Melbourne. As a teenager, Assange discovered a talent for computer hacking, due to which he had run-ins with the Australian police. But, he admitted most of the charges levelled against him, for which he paid a fine.

Assange married his wife Stella in March 2022 in Belmarsh. He is the father of two boys. He met her when she worked on his case. 

Also Read | US Considers Plea Deal for Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange

A Look At The Case Timeline

  • Assange launched WikiLeaks in 2006 with “like-minded” IT experts and activists, AFP reported.
  • His legal battles began in 2010 after WikiLeaks published information from classified documents about US military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rape allegations in Sweden then followed, which he denied.
  • He was in Britain when Sweden sought his extradition. Ecuador granted him political asylum and let him into its London embassy in 2012.
  • Assange lived in a small apartment in the embassy for seven years from 2012. He described his situation as “living in a space station”.

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  • US authorities charged him with violating the US Espionage Act in 2018.
  • His asylum in Ecuador's London mission ended in April 2019 after a new government in Quito handed him to British police. He has since been jailed at London's high-security Belmarsh prison.
  • Swedish prosecutors dropped their rape investigation in 2019. They maintained that the alleged victim's statements were “credible”, but there was insufficient evidence to proceed.
  • Assange has lived at Belmarsh for five years, during which time a protracted legal battle has raged to decide whether he should be extradited. 
  • After his June 2025 plea deal with the US, Assange was taken to Stansted airport in London and seen boarding a flight to an unnamed destination.
  • Assange is scheduled to appear in court in the Northern Mariana Islands, a US-held Pacific island. After his release, Assange will be free to fly back to his native Australia.

(With inputs from AFP)

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First Published:25 Jun 2024, 07:26 AM IST
HomeNewsWorldJulian Assange free: A look at the timeline of the 14-year-long Wikileaks espionage case

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