Julian Assange Freed from Belmarsh Prison, Set to Return to Australia After Plea Deal

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was released from Belmarsh Prison in the UK on Monday after agreeing to a plea deal that concludes his lengthy legal battle. The 52-year-old Assange will plead guilty to one count of conspiring to disclose classified US national defense documents, ending his five-year detention in the UK. 

Assange had been fighting extradition to the US, where authorities sought to prosecute him for leaking military secrets. Despite the UK government approving his extradition in June 2022, negotiations led to a deal allowing Assange to return to his native Australia. He is expected to appear in the US territory on Wednesday.

“Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of June 24, after spending 1,901 days there,” WikiLeaks announced on Twitter. In a statement, WikiLeaks detailed that Assange was granted bail by the High Court in London and departed the UK from Stansted Airport.

The organization expressed deep gratitude to supporters worldwide, crediting a global campaign involving grassroots organizers, press freedom advocates, legislators, and international leaders. This collective effort facilitated negotiations with the US Department of Justice, culminating in the current agreement, although final details are still pending.

Assange is expected to receive a 62-month prison sentence, credited with time served in the UK, allowing him to return home to Australia. 

Assange’s family expressed relief after his ordeal. His mother, Christine Assange, highlighted the significance of quiet diplomacy in resolving the situation. His father, John Shipton, thanked Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for his role in the negotiations, calling his son’s return “energizing” for the family.

In a pre-recorded video, Assange’s wife Stella confirmed his release outside Belmarsh Prison and thanked supporters for their continued support.

In 2010, WikiLeaks published thousands of classified US military documents from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, marking one of the largest security breaches in US military history. In 2019, Assange faced 18 charges from a US federal grand jury related to the publication of over 700,000 documents, including diplomatic cables and battlefield reports. 

The charges against Assange sparked significant global outrage, with many press freedom advocates arguing they posed a threat to free speech. Assange previously spent seven years in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which were eventually dropped.

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