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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange released from prison after 12 years legal battle

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been released from prison in the United Kingdom and is returning to Australia after pleading guilty to a single charge of violating US espionage laws.

Assange, 52, will plead guilty to one count of conspiring to obtain and distribute sensitive US national defense documents, according to a filing in the US District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands.

He was released from the UK’s high-security Belmarsh prison on Monday and transported to the airport, where he flew out of the country. Assange will appear in court on Saipan, a US Pacific territory, at 9 a.m. on Wednesday (23:00 GMT on Tuesday), where he will be sentenced to 62 months for time already spent.

“Julian Assange is free,” Wikileaks said in a statement posted on X.

“He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of 24 June, after having spent 1901 days there. He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stanstead airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.”

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A video posted on X by Wikileaks showed Assange dressed in a blue shirt and jeans signing a document before boarding a private jet.

He will return to Australia after the hearing, the Wikileaks statement added, referring to the hearing in Saipan.

The plane carrying Assange landed in Bangkok on Tuesday to refuel before flying the WikiLeaks founder to the US territory.

“Julian is free!!!!” his wife Stella wrote on X as she thanked supporters. “Words cannot express our immense gratitude to YOU – yes, YOU, who have all mobilised for years and years to make this come true.”

Julian Assange rose to prominence with the launch of Wikileaks in 2006, creating an online whistleblower platform for people to submit classified material such as documents and videos anonymously.

Footage of a US Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad, which killed a dozen people, including two journalists, raised the platform’s profile, while the 2010 release of hundreds of thousands of classified US documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a trove of diplomatic cables, cemented its reputation.

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