Julian Assange Pleads Guilty and Is a Free Man. He Cannot Return to the US Without Permission


By John

Guilty of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate national defense information”. Few and yet heavy words to put an end to a judicial ordeal that lasted 14 years. Julian Assange pleaded guilty before American justice in the court of Saipan, on the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Pacific Ocean. The admission of the 52-year-old founder of Wikileaks was part of the plea bargaining process granted by American President Joe Biden, which allowed him to leave for his native Australia as a free man. Assange will not be allowed to return to the United States unless he is granted permission, the U.S. Department of Justice announced after the WikiLeaks founder’s plea deal and release. “In accordance with the guilty plea agreement, Assange is prohibited from returning to the United States without permission,” the department said in a statement published as the 52-year-old Australian flew to Canberra.

Dark suit, ocher tie, white hair combed back, according to the journalists present in the courtroom Assange was calm and in a good mood. After pleading guilty he even joked to Judge Ramona Manglona that he was “waiting for the outcome of the hearing to be satisfied”. Then he was sentenced to five years and two months, exactly the time he had already spent in the maximum security prison near London. A necessary but formal ritual, especially since the Australian signed the plea agreement on June 24 in the United Kingdom, before boarding the private jet paid for with a fundraiser of over half a million dollars. “I read it thoroughly,” he said of the agreement.

And when the judge asked him what he had done to commit the crime he is accused of, Assange replied: “I encouraged my source to provide classified information for publication. I believe the First Amendment protects that activity…” The WikiLeaks founder did not fail to get something off his chest, stressing that in his opinion “the First Amendment and the Espionage Act are contradictory, but I accept that it would be difficult to win a case like this given all of these circumstances”.

Wife Stella admitted they “weren’t sure until the last 24 hours that this was actually happening.” WikiLeaks announced on X that Assange will leave for Australia in the next few hours, adding that the plea deal “should never have happened”. The Canberra government, which had been pressuring Washington for months to reach this conclusion, said the case “has dragged on for too long”. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese defined the agreement reached between US justice and Assange as “a welcome development”.