The Julian Assange Saga: A Conclusive End to a Decade-Long Drama

Dell Cameron

United States prosecutors have secured a deal with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange requiring the long-embattled publisher to plead guilty to one count of espionage for his role in making public classified documents concerning the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The agreement, which follows more than a decade of efforts by Assange, 52, to avoid extradition from the United Kingdom, would draw to a close one of the longest-running national security investigations in US history. The deal was first disclosed in court documents made public in the UK.

Assange and his legal team, which have denied the accusations levied by the US, could not be immediately reached for comment.


“Julian Assange is free,” WikiLeaks wrote in a statement posted to X. “He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of 24 June, after having spent 1901 days there.”

A letter US prosecutors filed in the US District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands on Monday indicates that Assange will enter his guilty plea at a Wednesday hearing in Sapian, the island territory’s capital, having refused to travel to the continental US. He is then expected to return to his home country of Australia, having already served the expected 62-month sentence in London prison.

The case against Assange centers around the publishing of more than 750,000 stolen US documents by WikiLeaks between 2009 and 2011. It has drawn enormous attention for its clear implications on press freedoms internationally. Organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists in the US have for years warned the case could severely imperil the ability of journalists to obtain and publish classified information—even though the nation’s highest court has long recognized the right of journalists to do so.

Ahead of the 2016 US presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, WikiLeaks published a trove of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. The leak, which embarrassed the DNC and won Assange praise from right-wing figures, was later revealed to be the work of notorious Russian hacking groups known as Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, both affiliated with Moscow’s GRU military intelligence agency.


US prosecutors initially charged Assange with a single count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for allegedly conspiring with Chelsea Manning, who provided WikiLeaks with the trove of classified material related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to gain unauthorized access to government computers. Prosecutors later added an additional 17 charges under the Espionage Act—a move widely condemned as an attack on the free press.

Assange, forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2019 after seven years of asylum, has been held in Belmarsh prison in London pending the outcome of his extradition hearings, which were delayed repeatedly over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. His attorneys argued that due to his deteriorating mental health, extradition to the US would increase the likelihood of suicide.

US prosecutors secured, on appeal, permission to extradite the award-winning journalist, who married his longtime partner, Stella Moris, while in jail in 2022, by offering UK courts a slate of written assurances. Among other concessions, the US promised not to subject Assange to “special administration measures,” a term referring to the practice of wiretapping certain defendants’ phone calls citing national security concerns.

“This period of our lives, I’m confident now, has come to an end,” said Moris—now Assange—in a video prerecorded last week. “I think by this time next week, Julian will be free.”


Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor in chief, said in the same video captured outside Belmarsh that he hoped to see Assange for the last time inside its walls. “If you’re seeing this, it means he is out.”

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