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Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange to Plead Guilty, Return to Australia

Assange, who faced a host of charges in the U.S. under the Espionage Act, is expected to return to Australia.

After spending five years in a high-security British prison, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has entered a plea deal with the U.S. government.

Assange is expected plead guilty to a single count of conspiring to “unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified information relating to the national defense of the United States,” and will be sentenced in the Northern Mariana Islands on Wednesday, according to a letter filed by the Justice Department and obtained by The Washington Post. The letter notes that he will return to his native country of Australia after the proceedings.

The WikiLeaks founder had faced numerous charges in the U.S. under the Espionage Act stemming from classified military and diplomatic documents leaked by Chelsea Manning in 2010 that were published by WikiLeaks and five newspapers through 2010 and 2011. That material exposed the details of hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the deaths of two Reuters journalists via the Collateral Murder video, and of the shocking conditions and deteriorating mental and physical health of Guantanamo Bay’s detainees.

In May, the High Court in London allowed him to appeal his extradition from the United Kingdom to the United States after his legal team raised concerns that he would not be able to rely on his right to free speech if he were extradited. The decision arrived after a previous judge rejected Assange’s effort to appeal. The hearing on the issue had been scheduled for July 9-10.

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but former President Barack Obama commuted the rest of her term after she served seven years. In 2019, the former Army intelligence officer was held in contempt of court and sent to jail again for refusing to testify to a grand jury about WikiLeaks. After 10 months, she was later released after a judge ruled her testimony before the grand jury was no longer needed.