Founder of WikiLeaks admitted espionage charges and walked free; freedom was agreed with the North American government

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, landed in Canberra, the capital of Australia, this Wednesday morning (June 26, 2024). The Australian activist has ended legal dispute with the United States after pleading guilty to illegally publishing secret US national security documents.

On Tuesday (June 25), Assange was present in a court in Saipan, in the Northern Mariana Islands. The location was chosen because he refused to travel to the USA and because of the archipelago’s proximity to Australia.

By pleading guilty, Assange would have been sentenced to 5 years and 2 months in prison, the same period he has already served in the United Kingdom, allowing him to leave the court a free man.

Senior US Justice Department officials accepted the deal, acknowledging that Assange had already served more time than most people accused of similar crimes.

Understand the case

Julian Assange, 52, founded the WikiLeaks website in 2006. From 2010, the Australian began publishing confidential information about the USA. The North American government estimates that there were 700,000 documents.

The material, published on WikiLeaks and other vehicles, such as Guardian e New York Times, contained data on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and other diplomatic and military operations information. They also reported information about the air attack on Baghdad (Iraq) in July 2007. Part of the documents were about alleged abuses committed by the US Armed Forces.

There was also evidence that the United States government spied on governments in other countries, as was the case in Brazil. Former president Dilma Rousseff and 28 other names from her government – ​​including ministers – were on an NSA (National Security Agency, in Portuguese) monitoring list since 2011.

Julian Assange was arrested in London in 2019, in the high-security Belmarsh prison, after spending 7 years sheltered in the Ecuadorian embassy. He was trying to avoid being arrested and extradited to Sweden, a country where he was accused of 2 cases of rape. The investigations were later archived.

The leaks exposed human rights abuses and spying on leaders of other countries.

O Poder360 separated the main events regarding the case of the WikiLeaks founder.

Here is the chronology:

  • 2006: Assange founds WikiLeaks and begins publishing classified information and news leaks from anonymous sources;
  • August 2010: a Swedish prosecutor issues an arrest warrant after two Swedish women accuse Assange of rape and sexual abuse in separate allegations;
  • November 2010: WikiLeaks begins releasing diplomatic cables acquired from an anonymous source, prompting the US Department of Justice to open an investigation. The source is later discovered to be Chelsea Manning. Sweden also issues an international arrest warrant for Assange;
  • May 2012: British Supreme Court rules in favor of Assange’s return to Sweden, but his lawyers ask for a delay;
  • August 2012: Assange is granted asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which cites concerns about human rights abuses if he is extradited. The journalist entered the embassy for the first time in June 2012;
  • August 2015: Swedish prosecutors drop sexual abuse charges against Assange after they ran out of time to question him, but he still faces a rape charge;
  • February 2016: the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concludes that Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” by Sweden and the United Kingdom since December 2010 and calls on both governments to end his “deprivation of liberty”;
  • October 2016: Ecuador’s government says it cut off Assange’s internet due to the release of hacked emails by WikiLeaks during the 2016 election – later revealed to be part of Russian government interference on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump. Assange announced in December that his internet connection had been restored;
  • April 2017: former director of the CIA (US Central Intelligence Agency) Mike Pompeo describes WikiLeaks as a “hostile non-state intelligence service” that constitutes a threat to US national security;
  • May 2017: Swedish prosecutors close 7-year investigation into rape allegation against Assange;
  • December 2017: Ecuador grants Assange citizenship in failed bid to give him diplomatic immunity;
  • February 2018: British judge Emma Arbuthnot says the country will not drop charges against Assange after he cheated on bail in 2012 by seeking asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy;
  • April 2019: a week before Assange was arrested, the Ecuadorian president says he “violated the agreement we made with him and his lawyer many times.” The information is from the Washington Post;
  • April 11, 2019: Assange is arrested on a US extradition warrant after Ecuador withdraws its offer of asylum. He is found guilty of not paying bail determined by the British Court;
  • May 1, 2019: Assange was sentenced to almost 1 year in prison in the United Kingdom;
  • May 23, 2019: US charges journalist under Espionage Act. He was indicted on 18 counts. The case raises questions about the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of expression in the US;
  • June 11, 2019: US files extradition request against Assange. Request was rejected in January 2021 due to the risk of the Australian committing suicide;
  • October 28, 2021: USA tries again to extradite Julian Assange. The US government has denied that his mental health is fragile to the point that he cannot resist the US judicial system;
  • April 20, 2022: British court issues Assange extradition order to the USA;
  • June 17, 2022: United Kingdom approves extradition of journalist to the USA;
  • June 6, 2023: United Kingdom Supreme Court rejects the last appeal presented by the journalist;
  • June 13, 2023: Assange’s defense files appeal against extradition;
  • February 14, 2024: Australian Parliament calls for Assange to be allowed to return to his homeland;
  • March 26, 2024: UK Supreme Court decides on extradition, but accepts Assange’s appeal and asks the US for more information;
  • April 16, 2024: USA sends information requested by the UK Supreme Court;
  • June 24, 2024: Assange and the United States reach an agreement and the journalist leaves Belmarsh maximum security prison, in the United Kingdom.


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