Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, reaches an agreement with the United States to be released | International

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, reaches an agreement with the United States to be released | International
Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, reaches an agreement with the United States to be released | International

The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, has decided to plead guilty as part of an agreement with the United States Department of Justice that will allow him to be released and return to his native Australia after spending five years in a British prison. Assange, 52, pleads guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010, according to court records. With this agreement, which must be ratified this Wednesday, a long legal soap opera ends. “Julian Assange is free,” Wikileaks tweeted.

A document filed in the court of remote Saipan, capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, in the Pacific Ocean, already dated Tuesday, June 25, maintains that Assange “knowingly and illegally conspired” to “receive and obtain documents related to with national defense” and “communicate” that information to people who had no right to receive it.” A letter from the Department of Justice registered with that same court states: “We anticipate that the defendant will plead guilty (…) to conspiring to illegally obtain and disseminate classified information related to the national defense of the United States (…) and “He will be sentenced by the Court for that crime.”

That same letter states that Assange will appear this Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. local time (1:00 a.m. in mainland Spain), before Judge Ramona Villagómez Manglona, ​​who has hastily taken charge of the case. According to the Department of Justice, the defendant refused to appear before a court in the continental United States. These islands are closer to Australia, where US authorities expect Assange to go after his release, according to court documents.

The crime for which Assange pleads guilty carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but the accused is expected to appear before that court and be sentenced to five years, which would be completed with the time spent in the British prison, which means that he would be released.

Before this agreement, the United States Government accused Assange of 17 crimes against the Espionage Act and one for computer interference. The Australian editor faced a maximum sentence of 170 years in prison, mainly for the leak of more than 250,000 classified documents from the US State Department in November 2010. EL PAÍS was one of the media that participated in that concerted publishing effort. of these papers.

Five years in prison

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Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 and was granted political asylum after courts in England ruled that he should be extradited to Sweden as part of a rape investigation in the Scandinavian country. During his stay at the embassy he had two children with Stella Assange, his current spouse. He was detained by British police in April 2019 after the Government of Ecuador withdrew his asylum status. Sweden ended up withdrawing the investigation into sexual crimes, but he has spent five years in the high-security Belmarsh prison, southeast of London, fighting extradition to the United States. This Monday he left prison and began the journey to the Mariana Islands.

“Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of June 24, having spent 1,901 days there. The High Court in London granted him bail and he was released from Stansted Airport in the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK,” Wikileaks tweeted. “After more than five years in a 2×3 meter cell, isolated 23 hours a day, he will soon be reunited with his wife, Stella Assange, and his children, who have only known their father behind bars,” added the organization, which has indicated that Assange has boarded a plane at Stansted airport and has released images of the moment he boarded.

The extradition process was at a standstill, pending an appeal from Assange. Judges at the High Court in London considered Washington’s assurances that the Wikileaks co-founder would receive a fair trial if he was sent to the United States insufficient. Last month, Assange won the right to appeal the extradition order after his lawyers argued that the US government had given “manifestly inadequate” assurances that the defendant would enjoy the same protections for freedom of expression as a US citizen if He was extradited from Great Britain.

Assange maintained that the publication of the confidential documents was a matter of public interest and that he was protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects freedom of expression. “Wikileaks published groundbreaking stories about government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions. As director, Julian paid heavily for these principles and for people’s right to know,” Wikileaks indicated this Monday. Washington, however, maintained that the leak endangered sources, citizens and national security with documents that harmed the United States and its allies and helped its adversaries.

Manning sentenced

The 2019 Justice Department indictment charged Assange with encouraging and helping U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that Wikileaks published in 2010. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison after being convicted. guilty of violating the Espionage Act and other crimes for leaking the classified documents to WikiLeaks. President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in 2017, allowing her release after about seven years behind bars.

While the Obama administration stopped short of bringing charges against Assange, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, appointed by Donald Trump, made the Australian’s extradition a priority. That’s despite the fact that Wikileaks published compromising Democratic emails in 2016 that prosecutors say were stolen by Russian intelligence agents. He was never charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, but the investigation exposed the role the hacking operation played in interfering in that year’s election on behalf of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.

The accusation against Assange was criticized by his supporters and by defenders of press freedom. Federal prosecutors argued that her conduct went far beyond that of a journalist gathering information, and amounted to an attempt to indiscriminately solicit, steal and publish classified documents.

The president of the United States, Joe Biden, acknowledged last April that the United States was considering accepting a request from Australia to end the legal process against Julian Assange. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese supported a motion in his country’s lower house in February calling for Assange’s return.

Wikileaks attributes the final outcome to a global campaign that included grassroots organizers, press freedom advocates, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations. “This created the space for a long period of negotiations with the United States Department of Justice, which led to an agreement that has not yet been formally closed,” he says. “Julian’s freedom is our freedom,” she concludes.

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