Julian Assange agrees to a plea deal with the Biden administration that will allow him to avoid prison in the United States



CNN

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge related to his alleged role in one of the US government’s largest breaches of classified materials, as part of a deal with the Justice Department that allows him to avoid prison in the US. , according to newly filed federal court documents.

Under the terms of the new agreement, Justice Department prosecutors will seek a 62-month prison sentence — equivalent to the amount of time Assange spent in a maximum-security prison in London while fighting extradition to the United States. The plea deal stipulates that Assange’s time served be credited, allowing him to immediately return to Australia, his country of origin.

The plea deal must still be approved by a federal judge, but as of Monday morning, Assange has been released from a UK prison, according to WikiLeaks.

“Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of June 24, after spending 1,901 days there. He was granted bail by the High Court in London and then released at Stansted Airport in the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and left the kingdom, WikiLeaks said on Tuesday. United. statement.

A video uploaded by the group showed a black truck driving on a highway, followed by footage of Assange boarding a plane.

A federal judge in the Northern Mariana Islands scheduled a hearing and sentencing for Wednesday morning, according to the US District Court there. Justice Department prosecutors asked the court to proceed on the same day because Assange was resisting setting foot in the United States due to his guilty plea, according to a letter from prosecutors.

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Prosecutors said that the court on the islands is located near Australia, where Assange is a citizen and where he is expected to return after the court hearing.

Prosecutors told the judge they “expect the defendant to plead guilty to the charge… and for the court to sentence him for this crime.”

The US authorities were pursuing Assange for publishing secret military records provided by former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 and 2011. He faced 18 counts from a 2019 indictment for his alleged role in the hack that carried a maximum of 175 years in prison in 2019, although it is unlikely he will be sentenced to that full time.

US officials alleged that Assange paid Manning to obtain thousands of pages of unredacted US diplomatic cables that potentially compromised classified sources, important activity reports related to the Iraq War, and information regarding Guantanamo Bay detainees.

In recent months, President Joe Biden has hinted at a possible agreement pushed by Australian government officials to return Assange to Australia.

FBI and Justice Department officials opposed any deal that did not include an admission of guilt by Assange, people familiar with the matter told CNN.

Last month, a British court ruled that Assange has the right to appeal his final appeal against extradition to the United States, handing him a victory in his years-long battle to avoid prosecution in the United States for his alleged crimes.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Caitlin Polantz, Holmes Lybrand, Lauren Said Morehouse, Claudia Ribaza and Christian Edwards contributed to this report.

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