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WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange declared ‘free man’ in Saipan after US plea deal

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in court in Saipan in a deal that ended a 14-year legal ordeal.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is on his home way to Australia after he was freed by a US court in Saipan after pleading guilty to a single charge of espionage as part of a deal with the United States Justice Department.

Assange’s plane took off for Canberra shortly after the 52-year-old walked out of court in the US Pacific territory having admitted a single count of conspiracy to obtain and disclose classified US national defence documents.

US District Judge Ramona Manglona sentenced him to five years and two months – the time he spent in prison in the United Kingdom fighting extradition to the US – and said he was free to go.

“With this pronouncement, it appears that you will be able to walk out of this courtroom a free man,” the judge said on Wednesday.

“I can’t stop crying,’ his wife, Stella, wrote on social media platform X.

The Australian earlier flew in from the United Kingdom on a private aircraft and smiled as he walked into court in a dark suit, with his tie loosened around the collar, accompanied by members of his legal team and Australia’s ambassador to the US, Kevin Rudd, a former prime minister.

Inside, he answered basic questions from the judge and listened as the terms of the deal were discussed.

Addressing the court, Assange said that he believed the Espionage Act under which he was charged contradicted First Amendment rights in the US Constitution, but that he accepted that encouraging sources to provide classified information for publication could be unlawful.

As a condition of his plea, he will be required to destroy information that was provided to WikiLeaks.

Julian walks out of Saipan