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Australia wants Assange home – PM

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

The Australian government wants Julian Assange to return home, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said, after he was granted bail by the UK ahead of an expected guilty plea in a US court, part of a deal that should see him walk free.

The co-founder of the transparency organization WikiLeaks was allowed to leave Belmarsh high security prison on Monday, where he spent over 1,900 days, and depart from British soil. On Wednesday, he is expected to attend a court hearing on Saipan, part of the US territory of Northern Mariana Islands, where a US judge will presumably approve an agreement he made with prosecutors.

Discussing the news with MPs, Albanese reiterated that “there is nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration and we want him abroad home to Australia.”

Senior Australian officials, including High Commissioner to the UK Stephen Smith and Ambassador to the US Kevin Rudd assisted in securing his release and are accompanying Assange, he added.

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Assange leaves UK prison to finalize plea deal with US (VIDEO)

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

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, according to local officials. It is expected to proceed to Saipan.

The Commonwealth of Northern Marianas is a US territory. The location was chosen by the Assange defense team due to it being distant from the continental US and its proximity to Australia, the media reported citing court papers.

Assange will reportedly plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to obtain and disclose US national defense information in exchange for being sentenced to time he has spent in UK custody.

The publisher was facing an effective life sentence in the US under charges which relate to WikiLeaks cooperation with whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Assange’s supporters call him a victim of persecution, who was targeted for exposing the criminality of the US and its allies, including by releasing documents obtained through Manning.


READ MORE: Assange freed as part of plea deal: Live updates

The publisher skipped bail in a separate case and sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012. That same year, he hosted the World Tomorrow program on RT. British officials were allowed to enter the diplomatic compound and arrest Assange in 2019, months after a secret US indictment against him was revealed by mistake.

June 25, 2024 at 02:16PM
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