EXPLAINER - Julian Assange: WikiLeaks founder’s long fight for freedom

EXPLAINER - Julian Assange: WikiLeaks founder’s long fight for freedom

Assange agreed to plead guilty to 1 count of violating US Espionage Act and received credit for 5 years he already served in UK prison

By Muhammed Enes Calli

ISTANBUL (AA) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was released from prison in the UK after pleading guilty to a single charge of violating US espionage laws.

Earlier on Monday, Assange was released from a high-security prison in the UK and was seen boarding a plane to leave the country at London Stansted Airport at 5 p.m. local time (1600GMT).

In 2010, Assange departed Sweden for the UK following the reopening of a rape investigation by Sweden’s director of prosecutions.

Seeking asylum, Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in central London in 2012, where he remained until his expulsion in 2019.

He spent the last five years fighting his extradition to the US from a British prison until his release.

According to court documents, Assange is set to appear in the US District Court in the Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the western Pacific Ocean, on Wednesday.

Once Assange case is accepted by a judge, he will be able to return to Australia.

US Justice Department prosecutors have recommended a 62-month prison sentence as part of the plea deal, CBS News reported, marking the upper limit for a single-count offence.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Assange would avoid US custody entirely by receiving credit for the approximately five years he has already spent in a UK prison battling extradition to the US.

- Here is the timeline of Assange's legal battle:

2006: Assange establishes WikiLeaks in Australia, beginning publication of sensitive or classified documents.

2010: WikiLeaks releases nearly half a million documents relating to the US invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

August 2010: Swedish prosecutors issue his arrest warrant after one woman accuses him of rape and another of molestation.

September 2010: Sweden's director of prosecutions reopens rape investigation. Assange leaves Sweden for Britain.

November 2010: Swedish police issue his international arrest warrant.

December 2010: He surrenders to police in London, and his extradition hearing begins.

February 2011: A British district court rules that Assange to be extradited to Sweden.

June 2012: He flees to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, seeking asylum after exhausting all appeals against the extradition ruling.

August 2012: Ecuador grants him political asylum.

August 2015: Swedish prosecutors close investigations into certain allegations against him due to the statute of limitations, but an investigation into a rape allegation is still ongoing.

September 2018: Ecuador announces that it is collaborating with the UK on a legal resolution to allow him to leave the embassy.

April 2019: Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno accuses WikiLeaks of recent corruption allegations and asks his government to withdraw Assange's asylum status.

April 2019: British police arrest him at the Ecuadorian Embassy.

May 2019: The US indicts Assange on 18 charges related to WikiLeaks' release of classified documents.

November 2019: Swedish prosecutor closes his rape investigation.

June 2022: The UK orders his extradition to the US and he files an appeal.

June 24, 2024: Assange agrees to plead guilty to violating the US Espionage Act and is granted credit for the five years he has already served in prison. Following his release, he leaves the UK.

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