WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes plea deal with US: NPR

A supporter of Julian Assange protests outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London on April 14, calling for his release from Belmarsh prison.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has entered into an agreement plea deal with the US governmentputting an end to a years-long international saga about his handling of national security secrets.

Assange is preparing to plead guilty this week to a single charge of conspiracy to obtain and disclose information related to national defense in a US federal court in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the Pacific Ocean , according to newly filed documents. court papers.

Under the terms of the deal, Assange faces up to 62 months in prison, equivalent to the time he has already served in Belmarsh Prison in Britain while fighting extradition to the United States. He is expected to be released and return to his home country of Australia after court proceedings later this week.

Australian leaders have been lobbying the Biden administration for years to drop the criminal case. President Biden confirmed at a press conference in April that US authorities were “considering” such a move.

A federal grand jury in Virginia indicted Assange in 2019 on espionage and computer abuse charges. described as one of the largest compromises of confidential information in American history.

The indictment accuses Assange of conspiring with then-military soldier Chelsea Manning to obtain and then publish classified reports on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and sensitive US diplomatic cables. Prosecutors said Assange published this material on his site WikiLeaks without properly removing sensitive information from it, putting informants and others at high risk of harm.

“No responsible actor, journalist or otherwise, would knowingly publish the names of individuals he or she knew to be confidential human sources in a war zone, thereby exposing them to the greatest dangers,” said former assistant attorney general John Demers at the time of the attack. that indictment.

Manning was arrested in 2010 and served seven years in prison before President Barack Obama commuted her sentence.

Assange's case has received support from human rights and journalism groups, including Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists, out of fear of the Espionage Act case against Assange could set a precedent for accusing journalists of national security crimes.

His interactions with the legal system have followed a byzantine path. Assange spent seven years in hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London after Swedish officials accused him of sexual assault. turned out to be frustrating both Assange and his hosts.

Swedish police eventually dropped the charges, but authorities in Britain subsequently took him into custody for alleged breach of bail.

The U.S. government then tried to extradite him, a process that limped through the courts for years. The plea agreement prevents further legal proceedings over the extradition that was scheduled for early July.

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