Wikileaks Founder Assange Freed After US Plea Deal

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to be a “free man”, his wife said Tuesday, once a judge signs off on a plea deal with US authorities to bring to a close his years-long legal drama.

Assange was released Monday from a high-security British prison where he had been held for five years while he fought extradition to the United States, which sought to prosecute him for revealing military secrets.

He flew out of London to travel to the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Pacific where he will plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate national defence information, according to a court document.

A charter plane carrying the 52-year-old landed in Bangkok around 12:30 pm (0530 GMT) on Tuesday for a scheduled refuelling stop.

From there it was scheduled to fly to Saipan, capital of the US territory where Assange is due in court on Wednesday morning.

He is expected to be sentenced to five years and two months in prison, with credit for the same amount of time spent behind bars in Britain.

Assange’s wife Stella said he would be a “free man” after the judge signs off on the deal, thanking supporters who have campaigned for years for his release.

She said the end of the long legal drama had brought a “whirlwind of emotions”.

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“I’m just elated. Frankly, it’s just incredible,” she told BBC radio.

“We weren’t really sure until the last 24 hours that it was actually happening.”

In a post on social media platform X, she urged supporters to monitor her husband’s flight on plane tracking websites and follow the “AssangeJet” hashtag, saying “we need all eyes on his flight in case something goes wrong”.

The court in the Northern Mariana Islands was chosen because of Assange’s unwillingness to go to the continental United States, and because of the territory’s proximity to his native Australia, a court filing said.

Under the deal, Assange is due to return to Australia, where the government said his case had “dragged on for too long” and there was “nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration”.

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