Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Reaches Plea Deal to Avoid Further Prison Time

Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Reaches Plea Deal to Avoid Further Prison Time
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a police van, after he was arrested by British police, in London, Britain, on April 11, 2019. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in which he will plead guilty to a conspiracy charge, allowing him to avoid extradition to the United States and walk free in lieu of time already served behind bars, according to court documents.

The plea agreement, filed at the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean, indicates that Mr. Assange was charged with one count of conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information.

A letter from a DOJ official to Judge Ramona V. Manglona of the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands shows that Mr. Assange is set to make a court appearance in Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, on the morning of June 26. During that court appearance, Mr. Assange is expected to enter a guilty plea to the charge.

The DOJ official—Matthew J. McKenzie, deputy chief of the counterintelligence and export control section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division—wrote in the letter that Mr. Assange would be returned to his home country of Australia after entering the plea.

“We appreciate the Court accommodating these plea and sentencing proceedings on a single day at the joint request of the parties, in light of the defendant’s opposition to traveling to the continental United States to enter his guilty plea and the proximity of this federal U.S. District Court to the defendant’s country of citizenship, Australia, to which we expect he will return at the conclusion of the proceedings,” Mr. McKenzie wrote.

Under the terms of the plea deal, Mr. Assange will serve no additional time than the 62 months that he’s already served in a British prison.

Before spending five years in a prison in the UK, Mr. Assange spent seven years at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he was granted refuge until his asylum was revoked and he was carried out of the embassy and arrested.

Mr. Assange has been fighting extradition to the United States for over 10 years.

More Details

The charge Mr. Assange will plead guilty to relates to one of the largest leaks of classified information in U.S. history.

He is accused of illegally helping U.S. Army analyst Bradley Manning obtain classified information, before later disclosing that information on the Wikileaks platform he founded.

Wikileaks published a trove of materials on the U.S. military and the Middle East, including a 2007 video showing two U.S. Apache helicopters mistakenly fatally gunning down two Reuters employees and civilians in Iraq. The trove included the identities of human sources.

“Assange’s actions risked serious harm to United States national security to the benefit of our adversaries and put the unredacted named human sources at a grave and imminent risk of serious physical harm and/or arbitrary detention,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in 2019 when announcing charges against Mr. Assange.

Mr. Assange’s supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimized because he exposed wrongdoing within the U.S. government.

Mr. Manning, who now goes by the name Chelsea, was sentenced to 35 years in prison after being convicted of numerous charges, including intentionally communicating national defense information that was acquired by accessing a U.S. government computer. Former President Barack Obama commuted the sentence in 2017, drawing criticism from Republicans.

U.S. authorities had been trying for years to extradite Mr. Assange so he could be prosecuted in the United States. In April, President Joe Biden said he was mulling ending Mr. Assange’s prosecution. Former President Trump also made comments to the same effect in May. And independent candidate Robert Mr. Kennedy has said he will pardon Mr. Assange if elected.

While it’s unclear what role the White House may have had in negotiating the plea agreement, Mr. Assange’s expected guilty plea and subsequent return to his native Australia would bring his years-long legal odyssey to an end.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times