Australia Urges Assange’s Return Home

The government is working with the WikiLeaks co-founder, who is set to enter a plea in a US court, Anthony Albanese has told MPs

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has stated that the Australian government wants Julian Assange to return home, following his release on bail from the UK and an expected guilty plea in a US court, which could lead to his release from custody.

The co-founder of WikiLeaks was granted release from Belmarsh high security prison on Monday after spending over 1,900 days incarcerated. He has left British soil and is expected to appear in court on Wednesday in Saipan, a US territory. A US judge is anticipated to approve an agreement he has reached with prosecutors.

Albanese told MPs that “there is nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration and we want him abroad home to Australia.”

He added that senior Australian officials, including High Commissioner to the UK Stephen Smith and Ambassador to the US Kevin Rudd, assisted in securing Assange’s release and are accompanying him.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong told parliament that Assange refused Australian consular visits in the early years of his ordeal in the UK, but agreed to engage with the government last year. Smith has met with Assange on several occasions since then.

According to local officials, the plane believed to be carrying Assange has arrived in Thailand and landed at Don Mueang International Airport north of Bangkok to refuel and resupply. It is expected to continue to Saipan.

The Commonwealth of Northern Marianas is a US territory. Media reports citing court papers indicate that the location was chosen by Assange’s defense team due to its distance from the continental US and its proximity to Australia.

Reports suggest Assange will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to obtain and disclose US national defense information. In exchange, he is expected to be sentenced to the time he has already served in UK custody.

The publisher faced the possibility of a life sentence in the US under charges related to WikiLeaks’ cooperation with whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Assange’s supporters maintain that he is a victim of persecution, targeted for exposing the alleged criminality of the US and its allies by releasing documents obtained through Manning.

In a separate case, Assange skipped bail and sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012. He hosted the World Tomorrow program on RT that same year. British officials were granted entry to the diplomatic compound and arrested Assange in 2019, months after a secret US indictment against him was revealed by mistake.