First day of Julian Assange free after agreeing with the US to return to Australia

First day of Julian Assange free after agreeing with the US to return to Australia

Julian Assange landed in Australia for the first time in more than a decade, after pleading guilty in a US court that allowed him to return to his home country a free man after serving time in a UK prison and taking refuge in the embassy. Ecuadorian.

Assange landed in the capital city of Canberra on Wednesday night after flying from the Northern Mariana Islands.He arrived in the United States earlier to appear in federal court, where he pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining and disclosing “classified documents related to national defense,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

After exiting the plane, Assange punched the air with his fist before hugging his wife, Stella, and his father, Richard. He did not immediately address reporters.

The Wikileaks founder received a 62-month sentence served, giving him credit for the five years he spent in a UK high-security prison. while fighting extradition to the US and allowing him to avoid further prison time in the United States.

Addressing reporters in Canberra, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had spoken to Assange shortly after the plane landed, but the Australian leader did not say whether he planned to meet him in the coming days.

“He’s been through a considerable test,” Albanese said. “Regardless of what you think of his activities, Mr. Assange’s case has dragged on too long.” The prime minister expressed his gratitude to the US and UK governments for helping to secure Assange’s release.

Assange’s arrival in Canberra marks the end of a multi-country tour for the 52-year-old Australian after he was freed in the UK on Mondayflying first to Thailand to refuel and then to the Northern Mariana Islands.

The plea deal resolves a protracted international fight to prosecute Assange that has been underway since military documents were publicly leaked.war records and confidential US diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011, including footage of a US airstrike on Baghdad a few years earlier.

In one of the largest breaches of state secrets in US history, Assange was accused of helping army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning obtain around 750,000 classified or sensitive documents.. Manning was convicted of leaking classified material in 2013, but then-President Barack Obama commuted her 35-year prison sentence in 2017.

Assange and Manning illegally conspired “to receive and obtain documents, writings and notes relating to national defense, including materials classified up to the SECRET level,” according to a four-page Justice Department filing.

Espionage Law

While Assange will avoid a lengthy prison sentence, Wikileaks is fundraising on his behalf to cover what it says is an additional “half a million US dollars” he must pay.

The United States criminally charged Assange in 2019, during the Trump administration, with violating the Espionage Act and sought to extradite him from the United Kingdom. The initial charges (17 involving espionage and one involving computer misuse) carried a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison if convicted on all charges, although sentences for federal crimes are typically lower.

But the charges in the United States came years after a Swedish investigation into sexual assault allegations, which led to his arrest in London in 2010. Assange said the Swedish case was politically motivated and, after months of fighting extradition while in Released on bail, he fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Those charges were dropped in 2017, but Assange remained in a small apartment at the embassy as he continued to dodge UK police and US prosecutors.

Ecuador withdrew his asylum status in 2019, leading to his dramatic arrest in early April of that year. That began his incarceration in London’s Belmarsh prison and another five years of legal wrangling as he fought the American charges before the current deal was reached.