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Explainer: How WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gained freedom and what comes next

Explainer: How WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gained freedom and what comes next Julian Assange (Getty Images)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has reached a deal with the US Department of Justice. He was released first time in 12 years.

What is known about the scandal of the century and what will happen next - in the RBC-Ukraine coverage below.


Who is Julian Assange

Julian Assange is an Australian citizen. In 2006, he founded the WikiLeaks platform, which published thousands of classified documents of diplomats, governments of many countries, including the United States, classified information, intelligence, and even personal correspondence of politicians.

WikiLeaks gained the most publicity in 2010 after it leaked materials provided by Chelsea Manning, an employee of the US intelligence services. Some of the information concerns the deaths of Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists.

In the United States, Assange was charged with 17 counts of disclosure of state secrets and one count of computer hacking. The United States is not the only country to open a case against Assange.

In 2010, Interpol issued an arrest warrant for Julian Assange. He was accused of rape and sexual harassment in Enköping, Sweden when Assange was on a business trip there.

In December of that year, British police arrested Assange in the UK. The court ordered him to be sent to Sweden. Assange then applied for political asylum in Ecuador. In June 2012, he arrived at the country's embassy in the UK and stayed there for the next seven years.

In April 2019, a British court found the Wikileaks founder guilty of failing to appear in court. At the same time, the Ecuadorian authorities authorized Assange's arrest. Until then, he was held in the maximum security Belmarsh Prison in London.

How he got out of jail

In March 2024, the British High Court decided to postpone Julian Assange's extradition to the United States. He refused to go to the mainland of the United States.

Under American law, Assange was to be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison. But he has entered into an agreement with the US Department of Justice that will allow him to be released.

The court hearing took place in the Northern Mariana Islands, which belong to the United States. Assange arrived by private plane on the island of Saipan, which is located about 6,000 kilometers west of Hawaii.

He pleaded guilty to illegal conspiracy to obtain and disseminate classified information. His sentence was 62 months in prison, but he will not spend them behind bars in the United States, as the sentence is equivalent to the five years he spent in London's Belmarsh Prison.

Explainer: How WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gained freedom and what comes nextGetty Images

What will happen next

Julian Assange has already been released after 12 years of litigation. An American judge has already signed his agreement with the US Department of Justice.

According to the agreement, Assange is not allowed to return to the United States without permission. He will return to his home country, Australia. The island of Saipan was chosen for the trial not by chance, as it is closer to Australia than to the United States.

When the WikiLeaks founder arrives in Australia, one of his tasks will be to pay the government for his way home. Assange is obliged to return $520,000 for the charter flight.

His wife and supporters have launched a campaign asking for donations to cover the costs.

Sources: CNN, Associated Press, The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald.