By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been released from prison and is due to appear in a US court on Wednesday where he is reportedly expected to plead guilty to violating US espionage law.

The deal will set him free after a 14-year legal battle which saw Assange, 52, spend more than five years in the British maximum security Belmarsh prison and seven in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

“Julian Assange is free,” WikiLeaks said on X on Tuesday. “He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.”

According to Reuters, Assange has agreed “to plead guilty to a single criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US national defense documents.” The report cites filings in the US District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands where Assange will appear.

‘Library of Persecuted Documents’

Assange rose to prominence with the establishment of WikiLeaks in 2006, an online whistleblower platform which, according to its website, “specializes in the analysis and publication of large datasets of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving war, spying and corruption.”

“WikiLeaks is a giant library of the world’s most persecuted documents. We give asylum to these documents, we analyze them, we promote them and we obtain more,” Assange said in a 2015 Der Spiegel interview.

Amongst the leaks were nearly 400,000 classified US military documents and footage from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 2010 leaks revealed field reports and war logs, detailing torture, and summary executions.

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One of its most notable leaks was a classified US military video of an American Apache helicopter firing on civilians in Baghdad in 2007 in which at least 18 people were killed, including two journalists.

In 2019, the US administration charged Assange with 17 counts of breaching the Espionage Act.

“WikiLeaks published groundbreaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions,” the organization said. “As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people’s right to know.”

It added: “Julian’s freedom is our freedom.”

‘Global Campaign’

Assange’s release was “the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organizers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations,” said Wikileaks.

His wife, Stella Assange, reportedly said the US government should have dropped the case against him.

“We will be seeking a pardon, obviously, but the fact that there is a guilty plea, under the Espionage Act, in relation to obtaining and disclosing national defense information is obviously a very serious concern for journalists,” she is quoted by Reuters as saying.

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‘Grave Implications’

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Assange faced a prosecution that “had grave implications for journalists and press freedom worldwide.”

“While we welcome the end of his detention, the U.S.’s pursuit of Assange has set a harmful legal precedent by opening the way for journalists to be tried under the Espionage Act if they receive classified material from whistleblowers. This should never have been the case,” CPJ CEO Jodie Ginsberg said in a statement on Monday.

He was indicted on 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in relation to WikiLeaks publication of classified material, including the Iraq War logs, the CPJ said.

“If convicted under these charges, he would have faced up to 175 years in prison,” the organization added.

Assange is expected to return home to his native Australia once the plea deal is finalized.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

The post ‘Julian’s Freedom is Our Freedom’ – WikiLeaks Says Assange Paid for People’s ‘Right to Know’  appeared first on Palestine Chronicle.

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