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Julian Assange Returns to Australia After Plea Deal Ends 14-Year Legal Battle

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, received an enthusiastic welcome in Australia on Wednesday after reaching a plea agreement over U.S. espionage charges, effectively ending a 14-year legal ordeal.

Assange arrived at Canberra airport at around 7:30 p.m. local time (0930 GMT) on a private jet, greeted by media and supporters. He shared an emotional moment with his wife, Stella, and his father, before heading into the terminal with his legal team.

Although Assange has not made a public statement since his release, Stella Assange addressed the media at a hotel in Canberra. She emphasized the need for her husband to adjust to his newfound freedom and expressed hope for his eventual pardon.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who has long advocated for Assange’s release, confirmed he spoke with Assange shortly after his arrival. Albanese praised the Australian government’s efforts to support its citizens, including Assange.

Assange’s return to Australia concludes a prolonged saga during which he spent over five years in a British maximum-security prison and seven years in asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. These years were marked by his fight against extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations and to the United States, where he faced 18 charges.

The U.S. charges were related to WikiLeaks’ 2010 publication of classified U.S. military documents concerning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, one of the most significant breaches of secret information in U.S. history. During a hearing in Saipan, a U.S. territory, Assange pleaded guilty to conspiring to obtain and disclose classified national defense documents. He acknowledged believing that his actions were protected under the First Amendment but accepted that they violated espionage laws.

Chief U.S. District Judge Ramona V. Manglona accepted his plea and released him, citing time already served in the UK. She noted there was no direct victim from Assange’s actions and wished him an early happy birthday.

Supporters hail Assange as a champion of free speech and a hero for exposing war crimes, while the U.S. government criticizes him for endangering its agents. Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S. lawyer, defended Assange’s journalistic activities and confirmed that WikiLeaks would continue its work.

Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s British and Australian lawyer, expressed gratitude to the Australian government for their role in securing his release. John Shipton, Assange’s father, expressed relief and joy at his son’s return, emphasizing the importance of ordinary life.

Assange’s guilty plea was entered in the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, chosen for its proximity to Australia and Assange’s opposition to traveling to the mainland U.S. This plea deal has raised concerns among Australian politicians who view the conviction as a dangerous precedent for journalists.

Assange’s lengthy confinement included over five years in a harsh British prison and seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy. During his time at the embassy, he fathered two sons with Stella, who he married in 2022 at Belmarsh prison in London.

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Charles Wright
Charles Wrighthttps://devstory.org.za
Charles Wright embarked on his journalism career two decades ago, quickly making a name for himself with his insightful reporting and keen eye for detail. His dedication to uncovering the truth and presenting well-researched stories has earned him a reputation as a reliable and respected journalist. Over the years, Charles has covered a wide range of topics, from local news and politics to international affairs and in-depth investigative pieces. Throughout his career, Charles has demonstrated exceptional skills in investigative journalism, political reporting, and feature writing. His ability to dissect complex issues and present them in a clear, engaging manner has won him numerous accolades and the trust of his readers. Charles is known for his commitment to unbiased reporting and his relentless pursuit of the facts, which has made him a cornerstone of the journalistic community.