Julian Assange pleaded guilty to espionage, ensuring his freedom

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony criminal trespass United States Espionage Actguaranteed his freedom under a plea deal, whose final act took place in a remote US courtroom in Saipan, in the Western Pacific.

He appeared in court in a black suit with his lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, and Kevin Rudd, Australia’s ambassador to the United States. He took the stand briefly and entered his plea more than a decade after he obtained and released secret diplomatic and military documents in 2010, bringing a complex case involving several countries and the US president closer to a conclusion.

It is part of an agreement allowing him to return to his homeland, Australia, after more than five years in British custody – much of it spent fighting extradition to the United States.

His family and lawyers documented his journey from London to Bangkok and on to Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth, posting photos and videos online from a chartered plane. His defense team said that during plea negotiations, Mr. Assange refused to appear in court on the U.S. mainland and that he was not allowed to fly commercially.

His wife, Stella, posted an emergency fundraising appeal on social media platform She also writes on X that watching the video of Mr. Assange entering the courtroom made her think of “how overloaded his senses must have been as he had to walk through the press after years of sensory deprivation.” and the four walls of his high-security Belmarsh cell.”

In court, Mr. Assange carefully answered questions from US District Judge Ramona Manglona, ​​who was appointed by former President Barack Obama. He defended his actions, describing himself as a journalist seeking information from sources, a task he said he considered lawful and constitutionally protected.

“I believe that the First Amendment and the Espionage Act are in conflict with each other, but I accept that it would be difficult to win such a case under the circumstances,” he said.

In Australia, relatives, supporters and politicians appeared eager to welcome Mr Assange home.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese campaigned heavily for his release. He responded to the agreement by noting that the case had “dragged on too long.” Many Australians seem to agree, noting that Chelsea Manning, who passed a huge trove of documents to WikiLeaks – including hundreds of thousands of military incident reports from Afghanistan – has served her sentence and been released.

Despite Australia’s strict espionage laws and Deep-seated culture of secrecy – that may very well have been warranted many years in prison His leaks focused on the Australian government – his return won support from politicians on both the left and the right.

David Shoebridge, the Green Party senator from Sydney best known for seeking to legalize cannabis, posted a video on X saying Mr Assange “should never have gone to jail for telling the truth”.

Barnaby Joyce, a rural conservative lawmaker, was equally enthusiastic.

“I’m pleased to hear that an Australian citizen, who has never committed a crime in Australia, who is not a US citizen, who has never been charged with an offense in the UK, is returning home,” he said.

Mr. Assange’s embrace reflects what many see as a cultural sympathy for the underdog, as well as a degree of ambivalence about America’s wars after the September 11 attacks and its political system. US judiciary.

“For liberals, he is an exacting hero,” said Hugh White, a former Australian government defense official and now a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University. because he revealed secrets that Washington wanted to hide.”

“Even conservative Australians are not as willing as our public rhetoric might suggest to disapprove of what Washington does,” he added.

Mr Assange’s father, John Shipton, said that bringing his son home after 15 years of separation and detention in one form or another was “pretty good news”.

He is expected to arrive in Canberra, Australia’s capital, near the end of Wednesday, before returning to Melbourne, the city where his family settled decades ago.


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