Daily Management Review

Following His Guilty Plea In The US, Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Arrives In Australia


Following His Guilty Plea In The US, Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Arrives In Australia
The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, returned home on Wednesday after agreeing to a plea agreement that freed him from a 14-year legal struggle and admitted guilt to breaking American espionage law.
Assange's homecoming brings an end to a protracted legal battle that saw him fight extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual assault and to the United States, where he was facing eighteen criminal counts, for more than five years in a British high-security jail and seven years in refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
These accusations sprang from one of the biggest breaches of secret material in American history—the publication by WikiLeaks in 2010 of hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. military papers about Washington's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Assange admitted guilt to one criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified national defence documents during a three-hour hearing earlier in the U.S. territory of Saipan. However, he stated that he had thought his actions were protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees free speech.
"Working as a journalist I encouraged my source to provide information that was said to be classified in order to publish that information," he stated in court.
"I believed the First Amendment protected that activity but I accept that it was...a violation of the espionage statute."
Chief U.S. District Judge Ramona V. Manglona accepted his guilty plea while pointing out that Assange's activities did not appear to have caused any personal harm to anyone, according to the U.S. authorities.
She freed Assange because of time already served in a British jail, and she gave him an early happy birthday. Assange turns 53 on July 3.
Assange's supporters celebrated him as a hero for exposing war crimes and supporting free speech, while the US government saw him as irresponsible for putting its operatives in danger by releasing their names.
Outside the courtroom, Assange's American attorney, Barry Pollack, told reporters, "We firmly believe that Mr. Assange never should have been charged under the Espionage Act and engaged in (an) exercise that journalists engage in every day."
He indicated that WikiLeaks will keep with its job.
Jennifer Robinson, Assange's attorney in the UK and Australia, expressed gratitude to the Australian government for facilitating Assange's release. John Shipton, his father, expressed his relief to Reuters.
While waiting for his son in Canberra, Shipton remarked, "That Julian can come home to Australia and see his family and do the ordinary things of life is a treasure."
"The beauty of the ordinary is the essence of life."
According to documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, Assange has consented to enter a guilty plea to a single criminal charge.
Prosecutors said the U.S. island in the western Pacific was selected because of its closeness to Australia and his aversion to visiting the U.S. mainland.
Australian politicians who had advocated for his release expressed apprehension over his guilty plea in the United States, arguing that he was a journalist wrongfully convicted of his duties.
That sets a very concerning precedent. As an independent legislator who oversaw a parliamentary group that supported Assange, Andrew Wilkie remarked, "It is the kind of thing we'd expect in an authoritarian or totalitarian country."
Assange hid out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years while he battled extradition, and he also spent more than five years in one of the most brutal jails in Britain, according to Judge Manglona.
He and his partner Stella, a former lawyer, had two boys while he was stranded in the embassy. In 2022, they tied the knot at Belmarsh Prison.
The Australian government repeatedly brought up the matter with the US administration and made a strong push for his release.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during a press conference on Wednesday, "This is something that has been considered, patient, worked through in a calibrated way, which is how Australia conducts ourselves."