‘JULIAN ASSANGE WILL BE A FREE MAN!’ says his wife Stella Assange

0
44
Assange supporters included Yellow Vests from France. They have now won their battle to stop his extradition to the US

JULIAN ASSANGE will ‘be a free man’ once a plea deal with the US is ‘signed off by a judge’, his wife Stella Assange said yesterday.

Assange left the UK on Monday following his release from prison thanks to a plea deal brokered with US authorities over his WikiLeaks disclosures.

Assange, 52, has agreed to plead guilty to a single criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US national defence documents, according to filings in the US District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands.

He was due to be sentenced to 62 months of time, already served by him, at a hearing in Saipan at 9.00am local time Wednesday (2300 GMT Tuesday).

The island in the Pacific was chosen due to Assange’s opposition to travelling to the US mainland and for its proximity to Australia, prosecutors said.

The US Justice Department has agreed to drop 18 espionage charges against him – instead charging him only with conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information.

Stella Assange told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme yesterday morning: ‘Yes, the charge concerns the Espionage Act, and obtaining and disclosing national defence information.’

Stella Assange, a lawyer who has worked on her husband’s legal team, added: ‘The important thing here is that the deal involved time served – that if he signed it, he would be able to walk free.

‘He will be a free man once it has been signed off by a judge and that will happen some time tomorrow.’

She will seek a pardon after her husband’s expected guilty plea in the US courtroom.

She said her husband’s expected prosecution under the Espionage Act was a ‘very serious concern’ for journalists across the world.

Any future pardon would be granted by the US president.

She told the PA agency that Assange’s plane, taking him from the UK to Australia via Bangkok and a court hearing in the Northern Mariana Islands, will cost $500,000 (£393,715).

There will be a fundraising campaign, she said.

Julian Assange was – until Monday – in Belmarsh prison in the UK, where he was fighting extradition to the US.

Last month, the High Court in London allowed him to bring a new appeal against that extradition. That hearing was due to take place next month.

The UK Home Office yesterday morning declined to comment on the deal that has seen him leave Britain, saying: ‘As the case is subject to ongoing legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.’

Assange left Belmarsh on Monday before being bailed by the UK High Court and boarding a flight that afternoon. WikiLeaks said in a statement posted on social media platform X: ‘This is the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organisers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations.’

A video posted on X by WikiLeaks showed Assange dressed in a blue shirt and jeans signing a document before boarding a private jet with the markings of charter firm VistaJet.

Here is the full statement from WikiLeaks which was posted on X, formerly known as Twitter:

‘Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of June 24, after having spent 1901 days there.

‘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.

‘This is the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organisers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations.

‘This created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice, leading to a deal that has not yet been formally finalised. We will provide more information as soon as possible.

‘After more than five years in a 2.3 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.

‘As he returns to Australia, we thank all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom. Julian’s freedom is our freedom.’

• See editorial