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JULIAN ASSANGE IS FINALLY FREE—Joe Lauria, Consortium News, June 26, 2024

The WikiLeaks publisher left Belmarsh Prison on Monday morning and departed the U.K. headed to Australia,  WikiLeaks said. 

Julian Assange has agreed to a plea deal with the United States. He left Belmarsh on Monday and is headed to Australia, WikiLeaks said. 

“He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK,” WikiLeaks said in a tweet early Tuesday morning London time.   

Stella Assange, tweeted: “Julian is free!!!! Words cannot express our immense gratitude to YOU- yes YOU, who have all mobilised for years and years to make this come true. THANK YOU. tHANK YOU. THANK YOU.”

Assange was released as a result of a plea deal with the United States, the BBC reported. The British national broadcaster said:

“According to CBS, the BBC’s US partner, Assange will spend no time in US custody and will receive credit for the time spent incarcerated in the UK.

Assange will return to Australia, according to a letter from the justice department.

The deal – which will see him plead guilty to one charge – is expected to be finalised in a court in the Northern Mariana Islands on Wednesday, 26 June.” 

The New York Times reported that Assange agreed to the one count of the Espionage Act — “conspiracy to disseminate national defense information” —  in exchange for a five year sentence, which the U.S. agreed had already been served on remand in Belmarsh.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported: “A court filing outlines a single criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US national defence documents.”  

The newspaper said Assange pleaded “guilty to an Espionage Act charge of conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified national defence information, the Justice Department said in a letter filed in court.”  

Bruce Afran, a U.S. constitutional lawyer, and Marjorie Cohn, former president of the U.S. National Lawyers’ Guild, both told Consortium News that a plea deal does not create a legal precedent. Therefore Assange’s deal would not jeopardize journalists in the future of being prosecuted for accepting and publishing classified information from a source because of Assange’s agreeing to such a charge.  

Afran said: 

“A plea is not precedent. Precedent consists of a decision interpreting a matter of law by an appeals court that will govern future cases on the same legal principle. In contrast, a plea is merely a factual agreement by a given defendant that they did a certain act, but does not bind future defendants in similar cases.

For example, if Julian chooses to drop his first amendment defenses and plead guilty, this does not mean that a similar defendant in the future does not have a First Amendment defense in an espionage act case. No appeals court has decided such issues, and Julian‘s plea does not bind future courts or future parties nor will it ever be considered in any other defendant’s case.

There is a doctrine that a person is bound to a factual decision, including a plea, only if they participated in that case. This means that no future defendant will ever be impacted legally, either by fact or law, as a result of Julian’s guilty plea. It has no precedental value or effect.”

The Mariana Islands are a U.S. territory where Assange will complete the deal in a U.S. federal court on Wednesday.

“Technically, he is coming to the U.S., [on the Mariana Islands] but not to the district where he was indicted,” Afran said. “And he could be taken into custody, but we assume the U.S. will act in good faith.”)

Aitor Martinez, a lawyer for Assange, released the charges that Assange apparently pled guilty to. He wrote: “Julian Assange has agreed a deal with the DoJ so he is finally FREE.” The document Martinez attached to his tweet reads:

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette, the London Daily Mail and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He is the author of two books, A Political Odyssey, with Sen. Mike Gravel, foreword by Daniel Ellsberg; and How I Lost By Hillary Clinton, foreword by Julian Assange.