The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, plans to plead guilty to the charges against him in the US as part of an agreement with the US Department of Justice, which will allow him to return to Australia and end a long judicial saga over the leak of classified documents. These are the keys to the agreement and Assange’s immediate future.

The crimes and the agreement with the Biden Administration

The US justice system accused Assange of up to 18 crimes for violating the Espionage Act due to one of the largest leaks of classified information in US history in 2010, which revealed secrets from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as data on the detainees at the Guantanamo base, among other issues.

Under the agreement reached with the Department of Justice, Assange, 52, of Australian nationality, will plead guilty to a single count of conspiring to illegally obtain and disseminate classified information.

This guilty plea will be made by Assange himself in an appearance scheduled for Wednesday in a court in the Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Pacific Ocean, according to a letter from the Department of Justice presented to the court. The visit is being held there due to Assange’s opposition to traveling to the continental United States and the proximity of the court to Australia, as explained in that letter.

Assange will not return to prison

Under the agreement, which must still be approved by a judge, Assange would only be sentenced to 62 months in prison, equivalent to the time he has already served in the high-security Belmarsh prison (United Kingdom). Until now, Assange was detained in the United Kingdom waiting for the United States extradition request to be resolved. This will put an end to years of litigation in different jurisdictions around the world over the leak of classified documents.

A long-awaited agreement

The agreement with the Department of Justice is not unexpected. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had repeatedly asked the United States to conclude the case, and in April, US President Joe Biden said he was “considering it.”

Organizations defending press freedom have been calling for Assange’s release for years and his wife, Stella, has been leading a campaign in his defense with the participation of celebrities and political figures. Assange had been facing charges in the US since a grand jury formally indicted him in 2019 for the large leak of documents from 2010, obtained by soldier Chelsea Manning. These included a video of American troops shooting civilians in Iraq in 2007, as well as atrocities in Afghanistan and 250,000 diplomatic cables that embarrassed world leaders.

Furthermore, in 2016 Assange became involved in the US presidential elections when he revealed through WikiLeaks that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign had counted on party support to weaken her rivals for the Democratic nomination.

Why testify on a remote Pacific island?

Julian Assange heads to court on the Pacific island of Saipan, where he is expected to plead guilty on Wednesday to a single criminal charge in a deal that will leave him free and free to decide whether to return home to Australia. , after a 14-year legal odyssey.

Saipan is the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI), an American community in the western Pacific that begins approximately 70 kilometers north of Guam and extends across 14 islands. Like territories such as Guam or Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands are part of the United States without full state status. Residents are U.S. citizens but cannot vote in presidential elections.

Assange would have chosen this location because he would want to go to court near his home in Australia, but not in the continental United States. Saipan has the advantage of being relatively close to Australia, Assange’s home, about 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) to the south. Hawaii is more than twice as far away.

“He has to face charges that have been brought under American law,” said Emily Crawford, a professor at the University of Sydney’s law school. “It had to be a US territory, but it had to be the closest US territory to Australia that wasn’t a US state like Hawaii.”

Her future? Return to Australia with your family

Australians want the WikiLeaks founder to return to Australia, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Tuesday when commenting on his release. “There is nothing to gain by imprisoning him and we want him back in Australia,” Albanese said today, in a control session in Parliament in Canberra.