Julian Assange to plead guilty in exchange for release from prison


Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will plead guilty to one felony charge under the Espionage Act in a plea deal that will allow him to go free from prison and bring to an end a years-long legal saga stemming from his role in one of the largest publications of classified information in U.S. history, according to court documents filed Monday.

Assange will plead guilty to conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate national defense information, under the plea deal, which still must be approved by a judge.

Assange is slated to appear in federal court in the Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the Western Pacific. His plea and sentencing are scheduled for Wednesday morning, after which time he is expected to return to Australia.

Assange has spent the last five years in a British prison, fighting to avoid extradition to the U.S. to face charges. Part of the plea deal includes a sentence of the five years that Assange has already spent behind bars there. The deal ensures Assange admits guilt without serving more time in prison.

Assange was indicted on 18 charges — 17 espionage charges and one for computer misuse — after his website published hundreds of thousands of classified military and intelligence documents in 2010.

He was accused of helping U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files for WikiLeaks to publish.

The massive leak of classified information sparked a national debate over whether Assange’s actions were heroic or harmful to the U.S. The documents shed light on what many saw as military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan, but prosecutors alleged Assange damaged the country’s national security and helped U.S. adversaries.

The Associated Press contributed.

Updated at 8:13 p.m.

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