Assange Returns to Australia After Plea Deal

Julian Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks, has returned to his native Australia after reaching a plea deal with the United States.

Assange landed at an airport in Canberra on Wednesday evening after a six-hour flight from Saipan, where he formally accepted a plea deal earlier in the day. He was accused of illegally obtaining and disclosing classified information related to alleged American war crimes.

The charter flight VJT199, carrying Assange along with Australia’s ambassador to the US, Kevin Rudd, UK High Commissioner Stephen Smith, and his lawyer, Jen Robinson, touched down in Canberra.

WikiLeaks has announced that Assange will hold a press conference shortly after his arrival.

Assange pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate national defense information in a US court in Saipan. He was sentenced to five years, a term he has already served in London’s Belmarsh maximum security prison.

As part of the plea deal, the US agreed to drop its extradition request. However, the US also demanded that Assange instruct WikiLeaks to destroy classified information stored on its servers or devices.

Numerous experts and free speech advocates have voiced concerns that Assange was “coerced” into pleading guilty and that his prosecution was unjustified.

Stella Assange, Julian’s wife, has stated that their priority now is to help him “get healthy again,” as “he’s been in a terrible state for five years.” She has also hinted that her husband may seek a presidential pardon following the guilty plea.