WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange pleads guilty in Saipan after US plea deal


julian assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has pleaded guilty to a single espionage charge in a Saipan court, part of an agreement with the United States Justice Department that allows him to return to Australia. The 52-year-old Australian admitted to conspiracy to obtain and disclose classified US defense documents in the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth territory. Assange appeared in court in a dark suit, accompanied by his legal team and Australian officials, including the ambassador to the UK, after flying from the United Kingdom on a private aircraft.

US District Judge Ramona Manglona, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, presided over the hearing where Assange answered basic questions and listened to the terms of his plea deal, which includes destroying information provided to WikiLeaks. Prosecutors chose Saipan for the court appearance due to Assange’s reluctance to travel to the mainland US and its proximity to Australia. Following his plea, WikiLeaks shared his flight schedule, indicating he would arrive in Canberra, Australia, at 6:41 pm.

This court appearance marks the conclusion of Assange’s lengthy legal battle, which included over five years in a UK high-security jail and seven years in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. The Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has long advocated for Assange’s return, declaring that the saga had dragged on too long. Assange’s supporters view him as a champion of press freedom for exposing US military wrongdoings, while Washington argues that the release of classified documents endangered lives. Australian governments have repeatedly raised the issue of Assange’s release with the US.