Home Uncategorized Assange arrives home in Australia a free man after US plea deal

Assange arrives home in Australia a free man after US plea deal


CANBERRA: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange landed to an ecstatic welcome in Australia on Wednesday after pleading guilty to violating US espionage law in a deal that sets him free from a 14-year legal battle.
Assange disembarked from a private jet at Canberra airport just after 7.30pm (local time), waving to waiting media and cheering supporters before passionately kissing his wife, Stella, and lifting her off the ground.He embraced his father before entering the terminal building with his legal team.
Assange has not spoken publicly since being released and did not appear at a Wikileaks press conference at a hotel in Canberra, where Stella said it was too soon to say what her husband would do next. “Julian needs time to recover, to get used to freedom,” she said. “I want Julian to have that space to rediscover that freedom.”
Assange told PM Anthony Albanese in a phone call from the capital Canberra’s airport tarmac that Australian govt intervention in the US prosecution had saved his life, Assange lawyer Jennifer Robinson said.
Assange’s arrival ends a saga in which he spent more than five years in a UK high-security jail and seven years in asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy in London battling extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations and to the US, where he faced 18 criminal charges. Those charges stemmed from WikiLeaks’ release in 2010 of hundreds of thousands of classified US military documents on Washington’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – one of the largest breaches of secret information in US history.
During a three-hour hearing held earlier in the US territory of Saipan, Assange pleaded guilty to one criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified national defence documents. He defended his actions, describing himself as a journalist seeking information from sources, a task he said he saw as legal and constitutionally protected. “I believe the First Amendment and the Espionage Act are in contradiction with each other,” he said, “but I accept that it would be difficult to win such a case given all the circumstances.”
Asked if Assange would return to publishing, Stella did not rule out the possibility. She said he “will always defend human rights, will always defend victims.” Another of his lawyers, Barry Pollack, expected his client would continue vocal campaigning: “WikiLeaks’s work will continue”.

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