Australian Premier Albanese 'welcomes' news about Julian Assange

Australian Premier Albanese 'welcomes' news about Julian Assange

WikiLeaks says Assange ‘paid severely’ for people's right to know, after publishing groundbreaking stories of gov't corruption, human rights abuses

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ISTANBUL (AA) - Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Tuesday “welcomed” news that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was expected to plead guilty to a felony US crime as part of a deal that will see him return to his native home.

Albanese indicated he will make a statement on Assange’s case after the legal process was complete.

Assange was released from Belmarsh maximum security prison earlier Monday following a bail by High Court in British capital before boarding a flight at London Stansted Airport at 5 p.m. local time (1600GMT), according to video footage posted by his organization on X.

A spokesman for the Australian government said it was “not appropriate to provide further comment” until the proceedings were concluded, ABC News reported.

Prime Minister Albanese “has been clear (that) Mr Assange's case has dragged on for too long and there is nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration,” it added.

Court documents indicate that Assange is set to appear in the US District Court in the Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the western Pacific Ocean near his native nation Australia, on Wednesday.

The judge on the island of Saipan is set to hear the case at 9 a.m. local time (0200GMT) and the sentencing proceedings are expected to be concluded in a single day.

Assange is expected to plead guilty to a single count of violating the US Espionage Act, namely that he conspired to unlawfully obtain and disclose US national security information.

Plane carrying Assange landed in the Thai capital Bangkok's Don Mueang International Airport for refueling on Tuesday, before it flies to the Sapian Island.


- ‘Julian's freedom is our freedom’

According to Wikileaks, Assange left Belmarsh maximum security prison after having spent 1,901 days there.

“After more than five years in a 2x3 meter cell, isolated 23 hours a day, he will soon reunite with his wife Stella Assange, and their children, who have only known their father from behind bars,” said the Wikileaks in a statement on X.

His release is “the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organizers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations,” it added.

The statement said a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice, lead to a deal “that has not yet been formally finalized.”

Assange has doggedly opposed extradition to the mainland US and spent seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in a bid to prevent the action.

He was ejected from the diplomatic compound in 2019 and has spent the past five years in British prison as he fought an extradition order to the US.

The plea deal must be approved by a US judge before it can go into force.

“Throughout the years of Julian's imprisonment and persecution, an incredible movement has been formed. People from all walks of life from around the world who support not just Julian ... but what Julian stands for: truth and justice,” said his wife Stella.

Assange rose to fame in the 2010s for leaking classified US documents on to the internet, gaining him both accolades and detractors internationally as he exposed sensitive American diplomatic correspondence and military records, including video footage of a 2007 US airstrike in Baghdad that killed several people, including two Reuters journalists.

“WikiLeaks published groundbreaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions.

“As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people's right to know,” said the statement from his organization.

“Julian's freedom is our freedom.”

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