The end of a transatlantic tug of war, but its unlikely to be the last we hear from Assange


A man imprisoned for allegedly revealing too much was released from behind bars without a whisper from either his team or the authorities.

The only video of Julian Assange on British soil after his departure from the high security Belmarsh prison was filmed on a mobile phone by his closest aides.

It shows him being driven along the motorway towards Stansted Airport, before boarding a private charter plane.

Assange was already well on his way before news of his apparent plea deal became public via court papers filed in the US.

He is thought to be heading, curiously, to the remote Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Pacific Ocean, closer to Japan and his native Australia than the mainland USA.

There, he will plead guilty before a federal judge to violating the espionage act.

By Wednesday, Northern Mariana Island time, Assange will likely be a free man, avoiding the extradition to the US he feared.

The final twist in a lengthy legal drama

It is perhaps the final twist in a legal drama which has lasted well over a decade.

A plea deal like this in espionage cases in the United States is not unusual, giving a defendant the opportunity to avoid a lengthier sentence and this one represents, in some respects, a victory for both sides.

Julian Assange boards his flight out of the UK Pic: Wikileaks
Assange boards his flight out of the UK Pic: WikiLeaks

For Assange, it means freedom after seven years in self exile in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, followed by five years in Belmarsh.

For the US, the country is now extricated from this messy legal saga and, on paper at least, has an official admission of guilt from Assange.

Read more:
Julian Assange will not be extradited to the US
Timeline of WikiLeaks founder’s 13-year legal battle

The US can point to this as evidence that there is no First Amendment, Freedom of the Press, defence to what he did.

The plea deal brings to an end a transatlantic tug of war over one of the world’s most famous prisoners but the debate over whether he should have been behind bars in the first place will continue.

While his critics call him a reckless criminal, Assange’s supporters, of which there are many, call him a fearless truth seeker.

His friend, Craig Murray, a former British diplomat, claims the plea deal was the result of coercion.

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“The danger was spending the rest of his life in a maximum security jail in the United States,” Mr Murray told Sky News.

“So this is coercion. Julian Assange did nothing whatsoever wrong. Julian Assange exposed the war crimes of the United States military and that’s something we should all remember.”

Now he is at liberty, it is unlikely to be the last we hear of Julian Assange.

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