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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to plead guilty in deal with US authorities

NEW DELHI: Founder of Wikileaks Julian Assange, has agreed to admit guilt to a felony charge in an agreement with the US Justice Department, according to court documents submitted on Monday night. This plea deal is set to bring an end to a protracted legal battle that involved multiple countries and focused on the release of classified information.
As per the Justice Department’s court filing, Assange will appear in the federal court located in the Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Western Pacific, to plead guilty to conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified national defense information under the Espionage Act.
The guilty plea, pending a judge’s approval, marks a sudden end to a criminal case that garnered international attention. Assange’s widely popular website, which shared secrets, made him a celebrated figure among many advocates of press freedom who argued that he acted as a journalist to uncover US military misconduct. In contrast, investigators have consistently maintained that his actions violated laws designed to safeguard sensitive information and compromised national security.
Following his plea and sentencing, which is set to take place on Wednesday morning in Saipan, the largest island in the Mariana Islands, Assange is anticipated to return to Australia. The hearing is being held in this location due to Assange’s unwillingness to travel to the continental United States and the court’s proximity to Australia.
WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of classified US military documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which were considered the most significant security breaches in US military history.
The organization also released a classified video in April 2010 depicting a 2007 US helicopter attack in Baghdad, Iraq, that resulted in the deaths of 12 people.
Assange was first arrested in Britain in 2010 on a Swedish warrant over sex crime allegations that were later dropped. Since then he has been variously under house arrest, holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London for seven years, and held since 2019 in Belmarsh top security jail, latterly while he waited a ruling on his extradition.
“Every day since the seventh of December 2010 he has been in one form of detention or another,” said Stella Assange, who was originally part of his legal team and married him in Belmarsh in 2022.

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