Wikileaks founder Assange pleads guilty in deal with U.S. to avoid further prison time

Wikileaks founder Assange pleads guilty in deal with U.S. to avoid further prison time

Washington, June 26 : Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to a single felony count of violating the Espionage Act in federal court in Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, as part of a deal with U.S. Justice Department to avoid further prison time and ending the years-long legal saga.

Despite having to admit guilt to a single felony count of “unlawfully obtaining and disseminating classified information relating to the national defense,” Assange would be allowed to go back to Australia without serving any prison sentence in the United States.

The U.S. Justice Department agreed to conduct the hearing on the remote island, a U.S. commonwealth in the Pacific, because Assange did not want to come to the continental United States.

Assange was embroiled in a lengthy legal battle with the U.S. government due to his role in acquiring and releasing classified military and diplomatic documents between 2009 and 2011. These files included hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. military documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

His supporters viewed him as a brave journalist and whistleblower exposing government wrongdoing, while his critics share grave concerns about the potential harm caused by his leaks.

The deal with the U.S. Justice Department concludes his 12-year legal ordeal, which involved seven years in Ecuador’s London embassy and five years in confinement in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison fighting extradition to the United States.

The Biden administration’s compromise to reach a deal with Assange came amid mounting pressure from the United Nations and allies such as Australia and Germany, all urging the United States to drop the extradition and resolve the case promptly.

In February, the Australian Parliament passed a motion calling for Assange to be allowed to return to his home country. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that he hoped for an amicable end to the prosecution.

U.S. President Joe Biden said in April that his administration is “considering” Australia’s request for the United States to end its effort to prosecute Assange.

UNI

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