Julian Assange Finally Freed After Years of Solitary Confinement

It could be possible that the travesty that happened to Julian Assange might finally be coming to an end as he has finally been set free.

Wikileaks co-founder and award winning journalist, Julian Assange, has been imprisoned for years in solitary confinement for what amounted to the crimes of journalism. After publishing several dumps of information such as so-called international “trade” agreements such as CETA, TPP, and ACTA (all of which drew heavy controversy when thanks to what the text revealed) as well as the collateral murder video, war diaries, and diplomatic cables (all of which exposed an unprecedented amount of government corruption and criminal activity), the United States targeted Assange and his supporters for this unheard of level of holding power to account.

While in the UK, the US government sought to arrest him for the crimes of journalism. In the process, the US helped to orchestrate a fake case of rape allegations. The allegations, a number of which were ultimately rescinded by the accusers, provided two purposes. One was to try and trick the public into believing that he should turn himself to authorities where he would face seemingly certain death. The other was to attempt to smear his reputation.

Ultimately, Assange took refuge in an Ecuadorian embassy where he sought political asylum. During his many years there, the US seemingly orchestrated a massive smear campaign, potentially feeding the media with fake stories designed to smear Assange’s reputation further. This includes the infamous fake story of Assange smearing feces on the walls of the embassy – a story that was ultimately debunked by supporters.

Following an election in Ecuador, there was a change in leadership in that country and the US worked non-stop to convince Ecuador to revoke Assange’s political asylum status. This in exchange for favourable loans for the country. Ecuador ultimately caved to US pressure and relinquished Assange. That gave British authorities the green light to move in and arrest Assange. Assange was dragged out of the embassy in a non-violent manner (video evidence proved that despite members of the media insisting he was resistant).

In the hands of British authorities, Assange was sentenced to a shocking 50 week prison sentence for the comparatively trivial crime of skipping bail – an almost unprecedented heavy handed sentence some consider a human rights violation. The United Nations called the sentence “disproportionate“.

From there, the United States dropped all pretense and filed 17 charges of espionage for what amounted to the crime of journalism. Civil and digital rights organizations responded by calling it an attack on journalism. This thanks to breaking the silent vow by the United States to never use espionage to go after journalists. 22 human rights organizations then called on then-newly elected president, Joe Biden, to have the case dropped for very obvious reasons. Unfortunately, Biden rejected the call to protect human rights and continued the pursuit against the journalist. Civil rights organizations, nevertheless, continued their campaign to have the charges dropped.

Assange was ultimately thrown in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison at a notorious prison for the crime of journalism. This as the back and forth legal battle continued on for years as Assange rightfully feared that as soon as he set foot in the US, it would only be a matter of time before he would be a dead man.

Today, we are learning that a plea deal was reached between the United States and Assange. In exchange for pleading guilty, he would be free to return back home to Australia. From the Associated Press:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will appear in court Wednesday to plead guilty to a felony for publishing U.S. military secrets under a deal that will set him free to return home to Australia after years holed up and imprisoned while fighting extradition to America.

The hearing, which will take place in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the Pacific, is the stunning culmination of the U.S. government’s yearslong pursuit of the publisher who has been painted both as a hero and a reckless criminal for exposing hundreds of thousands of sensitive military documents.

A private jet carrying Assange is expected to land in Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, ahead of the hearing, where Assange is expected to plead guilty to an Espionage Act charge of conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified national defense information.

Wikileaks hailed the development as a victory:

Julian Assange is free. 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 Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.

This is the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organisers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations. This created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice, leading to a deal that has not yet been formally finalised. We will provide more information as soon as possible.

After more than five years in a 2×3 metre cell, isolated 23 hours a day, he will soon reunite with his wife Stella Assange, and their children, who have only known their father from behind bars.

WikiLeaks published groundbreaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions. As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people’s right to know.

As he returns to Australia, we thank all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom.

Julian’s freedom is our freedom.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation released a statement on the development:

The United States has now, for the first time in the more than 100-year history of the Espionage Act, obtained an Espionage Act conviction for basic journalistic acts. Here, Assange’s Criminal Information is for obtaining newsworthy information from a source, communicating it to the public, and expressing an openness to receiving more highly newsworthy information. This sets a dangerous practical precedent, and all those who value a free press should work to make sure that it never happens again. While we are pleased that Assange can now be freed for time served and return to Australia, these charges should never have been brought.

Amnesty International also reacted to the news:

Reacting to Julian Assange’s release from Belmarsh, a high security prison in the UK, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard, said:

“Amnesty International embraces the positive news that Julian Assange has finally been released from UK state custody after five years of imprisonment, and that this ordeal is coming to an end for him and his family.

“We firmly believe that Julian Assange should never have been imprisoned in the first place and have continuously called for charges to be dropped.

“The years-long global spectacle of the US authorities hell-bent on violating press freedom and freedom of expression by making an example of Assange for exposing alleged war crimes committed by the USA has undoubtedly done historic damage.

“Amnesty International salutes the work of Julian Assange’s family, campaigners, lawyers, press freedom organizations and many within the media community and beyond who have stood by him and the fundamental principles that should govern society’s right and access to information and justice. We will keep fighting for their full recognition and respect by all.”

Reporters Without Borders also published a statement on the development saying, in part, the following:

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who has unjustly spent years in prison for publishing leaked information exposing war crimes and human rights abuses, is set to be freed after reaching a plea deal with the United States. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is hugely relieved by his release, a victory for press freedom and the culmination of a years-long campaign for justice.

According to WikiLeaks, Assange left Belmarsh high-security prison in London on the morning of 24 June, after spending 1,901 days there awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings initiated by the United States. He was granted bail at the High Court in London, and then taken to Stansted Airport where he boarded a plane to leave the UK. He is expected to reunite in Australia with his wife, Stella Assange, and their children – who have never met him outside jail.

Details of the plea deal have yet to be released, but Assange is expected to plead guilty to one charge – rather than the 18 he would have faced had he been extradited for trial in the US – and the five years he has already served in Belmarsh prison should be taken into account.

We are hugely relieved that Julian Assange is finally free – a long overdue victory for journalism and press freedom. He never should have spent a single day deprived of his liberty for publishing information in the public interest. Nothing can undo the past 13 years, but it is never too late to do the right thing, and we welcome this move by the US government. We will continue to campaign in support of journalists around the world who find themselves targeted for national security reporting, and for reform of the US Espionage Act, so that it can never again be used to target journalistic activity.

Rebecca Vincent
RSF Director of Campaigns

So, for observers, this appears to be a very welcome development to this very dark chapter in the world of journalism.

Drew Wilson on Mastodon, Twitter and Facebook.

1 thought on “Julian Assange Finally Freed After Years of Solitary Confinement”

  1. Calling the allegations against him fake and made up by the U.S. is hilarious.

    Assange became a Russian asset that cozied up to Trump and helped him win the 2016 election. He’s not a hero. The lengths people will go to in order to defend this right-wing creep…

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