WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange freed from prison, flown out of UK

    The Hawk
    June25/ 2024
    Last Updated:

    After over a decade of fighting extradition on espionage charges, the 52-year-old Australian will return to his home country.

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

    London: Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange, who has been fighting against his extradition to the US on espionage charges for over a decade, has been freed from prison and flown out of the UK under a plea deal with the American authorities.

    The 52-year-old Australian national was lodged at Belmarsh high-security prison in London since 2019 when he was taken into custody from the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he had sought asylum.

    It was revealed overnight on Monday that he has been freed.

    Assange will return to Australia, UK media reports said, citing a letter from the US Justice Department.

    He was charged with conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information.

    In return for pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information, the activist will be sentenced to time served, 62 months – time already spent in a British prison, according to court documents.

    After a judge formally accepts this plea, Assange will be free to return to Australia, where his wife and children have already flown to.

    In a post on X, WikiLeaks said Assange left Belmarsh after being granted bail by the High Court and was soon at Stansted Airport, where he boarded a plane and left the UK.

    "After more than five years in a 2x3 metre cell, isolated 23 hours a day, he will soon reunite with his wife, Stella Assange, and their children, who have only known their father from behind bars," the organisation said.

    His wife, Stella Assange, also took to social media, sharing a video montage of her husband in a car and then boarding a plane.

    "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," she said.

    She also shared an image on X of her husband video-calling her from Stansted airport on Monday. Assange's plea and sentencing are scheduled for Tuesday evening UK time in Saipan, one of the Northern Mariana Islands.

    The hearing is taking place in the US Commonwealth territory because of Assange's opposition to travelling to one of the 50 US states and the court's proximity to Australia.

    Assange's brother, Gabriel Shipton, told 'Sky News' that the Wikileaks founder is "overwhelmed to be out of prison".

    He said: "He's been on a plane for a very long time now... I've been speaking to him this week and just going through all the details with him." "He's been very anxious, very excited, and he's looking forward to spending time with his family and being free, being able to have the sun shining on his face, see the birds, go for a swim in the ocean back in Australia. He's very much looking forward to that," Shipton said.

    The Australian government said it continues to provide consular assistance to Assange.

    "Prime Minister Albanese has been clear: Mr Assange's case has dragged on for too long and there is nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration," a spokesperson said.

    Towards the end of his lengthy legal battles, two High Court judges ruled last month that Assange would be allowed to appeal against his extradition order.

    They agreed with his legal team on the issue of assurances from the US administration that Assange would be protected by and allowed to rely on the First Amendment of the country’s Constitution, which protects freedom of speech in the US, and the death penalty would not be imposed.

    It is believed this victory paved the way for negotiations for his freedom.