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What Is US' New Plea Deal With Julian Assange And When Will He Be Freed

Julian Assange will be sentenced at a court in US.

New Delhi:

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is set to plead guilty to a single count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US national defence documents, as part of a deal with the Biden administration. This agreement is expected to end Assange’s legal saga, which spanned nearly 15 years.

Case Against Assange

The case against Assange originates from WikiLeaks’ publication of sensitive US military documents, war logs, and diplomatic cables between 2010 and 2011. These disclosures, including footage of a US airstrike in Baghdad, constituted one of the largest breaches of state secrets in US history. Assange was accused of conspiring with Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, to obtain classified materials.

Chelsea Manning, who leaked the documents, was convicted in 2013 but had her 35-year prison sentence commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017.

The US criminally charged Assange in 2019 under the Trump administration with violating the Espionage Act and was seeking to extradite him from the UK, where he has been in prison ever since. The initial charges — 17 related to espionage and one to computer misuse — carried a maximum penalty of 175 years in prison if he was found guilty on all counts.

Plea Deal

Assange, 52, has agreed to plead guilty to violating US espionage law. As part of the deal, he will be sentenced to 62 months, which corresponds to the time he has already served in UK prisons. The sentencing will take place at a hearing scheduled on Wednesday in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands.

After sentencing, he will return to his home in Australia.

Global Campaign And Support

During his ordeal, Assange became a hero to free speech campaigners around the world and a villain to those who thought he endangered US national security and intelligence sources by revealing secrets.

He has spent more than a decade either in custody or holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy, trying to avoid extradition. Assange has been detained in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison for the last five years.

According to WikiLeaks, Assange’s plea deal and imminent return to Australia are the result of a global campaign involving grassroots organizers, press freedom advocates, legislators, and leaders from various political backgrounds. This support extended to international bodies such as the United Nations.

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