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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been freed

The 52-year-old Australian has left the UK and is expected to return to his home country after striking a plea deal with US prosecutors
  • Assange had been in legal limbo for over a decade after leaking US military documents and being charged with rape in Sweden

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was released from the UK’s Belmarsh prison yesterday morning and is expected to return to his native Australia after striking a deal with US authorities to plead guilty to breaking US espionage law, multiple media outlets report

Before flying back to Australia, the 52-year-old will be making a trip to the US territory of Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, where he will attend a district court hearing on 26 June and complete the terms of the plea deal.

According to a statement posted by WikiLeaks this morning on X, Assange had spent 1,901 days in a maximum security prison and “was released at Stansted airport during the afternoon [of 24 June], where he boarded a plane and departed the UK. 

The organisation, which has been notorious for leaking classified government documents via its website, stated that negotiation with the US Department of Justice for the Australian’s release was made possible thanks to the concerted effort of “grass-roots organisers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations.” 

Neither the Australian nor US government have made official statements regarding the release, although the former had been urging its American counterpart to consider allowing Assange to return home.

[See more: A Hong Kong journalism lecturer has been denied entry to Macao]

Assange’s legal woes with the US government began after WikiLeaks published nearly 500,000 secret military documents and videos pertaining to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010. 

Faced with rape charges that would have seen him extradited to Sweden, the WikiLeaks founder famously sought political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, where he stayed for the next seven years over fears that he would eventually be extradited to the US for leaking the sensitive US documents. 

The Australian was eventually arrested by UK police at the Ecuadorian embassy in 2019 and was sentenced to prison where he faced the prospect of being handed over to the US government, with his legal team fighting to have the extradition overturned. 

Assange remains a controversial figure, with supporters praising him for upholding press freedom and critics contending that his release of sensitive documents has put lives at risk.

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