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Julian Assange expected to walk free this week

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is expected to plead guilty to a single charge this week, in a deal that may see him freed from his British imprisonment to return to Australia.

According to Reuters, prosecutors filed criminal paperwork in the US District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, for a single criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US national defence documents.

This is believed to be a preliminary step before a plea deal.

The charges stem back to the 2010 WikiLeaks release of more than 700,000 classified US military documents and diplomatic cables regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange was prosecuted under the Espionage Act, and arrested in the UK in late 2010. He holed up in Ecuador’s embassy for more than seven years, until he was arrested in 2019 and held in London’s Belmarsh prison, where he has been ever since.

Last month, the United Kingdom High Court allowed an appeal against his extradition to the United States. The previous month, US president Joe Biden told a journalist that the White House is considering a request from Australia to drop the charges.

Albanese told Parliament in February he had hoped for a swift resolution to the matter.

“I hope this can be resolved,” the PM said. “I hope it can be resolved amicably. It’s not up to Australia to interfere in the legal processes of other countries, but it is appropriate for us to put our very strong view that those countries need to take into account the need for this to be concluded.

“Regardless of where people stand, this thing cannot just go on and on and on indefinitely.”

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