Wikileaks founder Julian Assange pleads guilty in US deal and returns to Australia – The Mercury News


WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will plead guilty to against the law as a part of a take care of the U.S. Justice Department that can free him from prison and end a lengthy legal saga that spanned multiple continents and centered on the publication of a trove of classified documents, in accordance with court documents filed late Monday.

Assange is scheduled to look in federal court within the Mariana Islands, a U.S. state within the western Pacific, to plead guilty under the Espionage Act to conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified national defense information, the Justice Department said in a letter filed with the court.

The guilty plea, which should be confirmed by a judge, abruptly ends a criminal case involving international intrigue and the U.S. government's years-long pursuit of a publisher whose wildly popular secret-sharing website made him a cause célèbre amongst many press freedom advocates who alleged he acted as a journalist to reveal U.S. military wrongdoing. Investigators, however, have repeatedly alleged his actions broke laws designed to guard classified information and endangered the country's national security.

He is anticipated to return to Australia after his confession and sentencing, which is scheduled for Wednesday morning local time on Saipan, the most important island within the Marianas. The hearing is being held there because Assange refuses to travel to the US mainland and the court is so near Australia.

Assange's US Attorney Barry Pollack didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment on Monday.

The deal ensures that Assange admits his guilt but additionally avoids additional prison time. He had been hiding out within the Ecuadorian embassy in London for years after Swedish authorities demanded his arrest on rape charges before he was jailed within the UK.

Prosecutors have agreed a sentence for the five years Assange has already spent in a maximum security British prison while fighting to avoid extradition to the US to face charges, a process that has been played out in a series of hearings in London. Last month he won the proper to appeal an extradition order after his lawyers argued the US government had given him “manifestly inadequate” assurances that he would benefit from the same free speech protections as an American citizen. if delivered from the UK.

He is anticipated to return to Australia after his confession and sentencing, which is scheduled for Wednesday morning local time on Saipan, the most important island within the Marianas. The hearing is being held there because Assange refuses to travel to the US mainland and the court is so near Australia.

Assange was hailed by many world wide as a hero who exposed military misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the files released by WikiLeaks was a video of an Apache helicopter attack by American forces in Baghdad in 2007 that killed 11 people, including two Reuters journalists.

However, his fame was also damaged by rape allegations, which he denies.

The Justice Department's indictment, released in 2019, accuses Assange of encouraging and helping U.S. intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military records that WikiLeaks published in 2010. Prosecutors had accused Assange of endangering national security by publishing documents that harmed the U.S. and its allies and helped its opponents.

The case was sharply criticized by members of the press and Assange supporters. Federal prosecutors defended it by arguing that it targeted conduct that went far beyond that of a journalist gathering information, and amounted to an try to amass, steal and indiscriminately publish classified government documents. The case was brought despite the proven fact that the Obama administration's Justice Department had kept away from prosecuting him years earlier.

The agreement got here months after President Joe Biden said he was considering a request from Australia to drop U.S. efforts to prosecute Assange.

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison after being found guilty of violating the Espionage Act and other crimes for leaking classified government and military documents to WikiLeaks. President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in 2017, allowing her to be released after serving about seven years.

Assange made headlines in 2016 after he posted on his website emails from Democrats that prosecutors said were stolen by Russian intelligence officials. He was never charged in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, however the investigation revealed intimately the role the hacking operation played in interfering in that 12 months's election in favor of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.

After the documents were released in 2010, Justice Department officials considered bringing charges against Assange, but they were unsure whether this is able to delay in court and frightened that it is likely to be difficult to justify charging him for actions much like those of a traditional journalist.

Under the Trump administration, nevertheless, the attitude modified: in 2017, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions described Assange's arrest as a priority.

Assange's family and supporters said his physical and mental health suffered during greater than a decade of legal battles, including seven years spent within the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Assange sought refuge within the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 and was granted political asylum after courts in England ruled he ought to be extradited to Sweden as a part of a rape investigation within the Scandinavian country. He was arrested by British police after the Ecuadorian government stripped him of asylum status in 2019, after which jailed for jumping bail when he first sought refuge within the embassy.

Although Sweden eventually closed its sex crimes investigation because a lot time had passed, Assange remained in London's maximum security Belmarsh prison throughout the extradition dispute with the United States.

image credit :